A congressional committee has rejected a report calling for Brazilian President Michel Temer to be suspended from office. A massive corruption scandal has already seen a popular former president known as Lula jailed.
Temer looked likely on Thursday to avoid an embarrassing trial over allegations that he took a $150,000 (131,000-euro) bribe from the world’s largest meatpacking firm, Brazilian media reported.
A congressional committee decided in a 40 to 25 non-binding vote to reject a damning report that accused Temer of arranging to receive a much larger payment from JBS SA totaling $11.85 million over the following nine months.
The scandal arose after police arrested one of Temer’s advisers with a suitcase full of money, which prosecutors allege was destined for the president. A video also emerged of Temer apparently approving the payment of hush money to a jailed ally.
Thursday’s successful vote contradicts the verdict of a lawmaker appointed to study Temer’s case, who earlier this week recommended that the corruption charge be accepted.
The decision will now go to a further vote of Brazil’s full lower house – the Chamber of Deputies – who will decide whether to suspend Temer, which would allow a trial in the Supreme Court to proceed.
That ballot could take place as early as Friday but could be delayed until the end of a two-week recess in August.
Political analysts said Temer would likely survive a full parliamentary vote, which needs the support of two-thirds of the 513 deputies.
New charges due
Still, Brazil’s General Prosecutor Rodrigo Janot has warned that he expects to level at least two new graft charges against Temer in the coming weeks.
The president, who last year succeeded Dilma Rousseff when she was impeached and ousted in an abuse of power scandal, has denied the allegations. He described Thursday’s vote as a victory for Brazil’s democracy.
Trouble at the top
The vote took place a day after a Dilma’s predecessor and mentor, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, was sentenced to nearly 10 years in prison for graft, as part of a mammoth corruption investigation known as “Operation Car Wash” which has implicated dozens of politicians and business executives and still threatens Temer’s leadership.
Lula has vowed to appeal his sentence and has voiced his intention to run for the presidency again next October.
The uncovering of massive corruption among the Brazilian elite has split the country which is suffering from its worst economic downturn in decades, amid accusations that the prosecutions are politically motivated.
mm/msh (AFP, AP, Reuters)