Brazil's president dodges bribery charge

Published on Thursday, 3 August 2017 20:54
Written by Associated Press

BRASILIA, Brazil (AP) - With his job on the line, President Michel Temer eked out a victory in a congressional vote over a bribery charge against him that has fueled angst and anger across Latin America’s largest nation.

But there are more legal woes ahead and clear chinks in his governing coalition, so Temer will have little time to celebrate.

Members of Congress’ lower house, the Chamber of Deputies, voted 263-227 Wednesday night against suspending the president and sending him for trial before Brazil’s highest court.

The result effectively suspended the bribery charge, which was filed by Attorney General Ricardo Janot in June. However, Janot is expected to charge Temer with obstruction of justice by the end of this month, which would prompt another vote that even Temer’s most stalwart supporters would rather not have to go through as elections loom next year.

In a troubling sign for Temer, the 263 votes cast in support of him fell far short of the crucial 308, or 60 percent of the 513-member body, that he needs to pass an overhaul of the pension system. It is an unpopular proposal supported by the business class, which has helped keep an otherwise deeply unpopular leader in power.

“This is far from over,” said Rafael Salies, a risk consultant with the Rio de Janeiro-based Southern Pulse. “August may still have many surprises in store for him.”

The vote on the bribery charge came after a full day of procedural wrangling by the opposition, maneuvers intended to stall and force legislators to vote in the evening, when many Brazilians were home and able to watch the proceedings being broadcast live. The moves may have worked.

While Temer’s opponents made impassioned speeches about the need for him to go, many supporters said nothing beyond the minimum to procedurally cast their vote. The measure was before the chamber because by Brazilian law a sitting president cannot be tried without the approval of the lower house, which is considered the conduit for the voice of the people.

Throughout the day, there was shouting and even periodic pushing between lawmakers.

“Temer is a crook and he needs to sort out his situation with the Justice Department,” said Elvino Bohn Gass, a member of the Workers’ Party, one of the main opposition parties. “Brazil should not be governed by a gang of thugs.”

Posted in New Britain Herald, Nation-World on Thursday, 3 August 2017 20:54. Updated: Thursday, 3 August 2017 20:57.