Saturday
November 18, 2017

Rejects graft charge in boost to Brazil leader

Friday, July 14, 2017

Brazil congressional panel votes against putting Temer on trial

BRASILIA — A Brazilian congressional committee voted yesterday against sending a corruption charge against President Michel Temer to the Supreme Court for the leader to be put on trial, handing him a symbolic victory yesterday a day after former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva was convicted of graft.

The corruption cases against two major Brazilian figures underscored the extent of political turmoil in Latin America’s largest country, where a spreading corruption investigation has uncovered a scheme to exchange bribes and kickbacks for political favours and public contracts.

However, the vote is non-binding and the full house must still vote on the charge, which would only be approved if two-thirds of the 513 legislators vote for it.

Temer was charged last month in connection with a graft scheme involving the world’s largest meatpacker, JBS SA. Attorney General Rodrigo Janot accused Temer of arranging to receive a total of 38 million reais (US$11.85 million) in bribes from JBS in the next nine months.

The panel voted 40 to 25 yesterday to reject the damaging report after parties allied with the president changed almost 20 members on the Chamber of Deputies committee to give the president a favourable score. Some lawmakers complained that the extensive substitution of committee members in recent days made the committee vote a farce. Party leaders have the right to replace their members on committees as they see fit.

After the contentious committee vote, which occasionally descended into shouting matches, some lawmakers cried “Temer out!” and “Purchased vote!” Others responded with “Long live Temer!”

The full house may vote today, though it looks increasingly likely that lawmakers may wait until early August, after a two-week recess. Though Temer’s support has waned, he is expected to survive the full house vote.

Janot has said he expects to level at least two new graft charges against Temer in the coming weeks, however. Several lawmakers have told Reuters in recent weeks that if they were forced into multiple votes to protect the deeply unpopular president from a trial, the chances of one of the charges being accepted by the lower house would greatly increase.

Temer, who replaced impeached President Dilma Rousseff last year, would be removed from office for at least 180 days if he were forced to stand trial in the Supreme Court. Speaker of the Chamber of Deputies Rodrigo Maia would take over presidential duties in the interim.

LABOUR REFORM SIGNED

INTO LAW

This week, the president signed into law a controversial labour reform that is a key part of his plan to revive the economy and boost his own embattled leadership.

A dramatic sit-in in the Senate earlier this week threatened to sink the bill, but the body eventually passed it, a victory that Temer heralded as he fights for his political life.

Temer argues that the labour law and other measures will help bolster Brazil’s economy, which recently began growing again after a prolonged recession. The legislation will allow agreements negotiated between employers and workers on a range of issues to override current labour law.

In related news, Brazil’s Senate on Wednesday voted overwhelmingly to approve Temer’s pick to head the Attorney-General’s Office after she vowed to make fighting organised crime a top priority. Senators voted 74-1 to promote deputy prosecutor Raquel Dodge, clearing the way for her to replace Janot in September. One lawmaker abstained. Dodge had won approval from a Senate committee earlier in the day.

Prior to the approval, Dodge said Brazil must step up the fight against organised crime, making sure that plea and leniency deals are used as instruments to help bring justice and not benefit leaders of criminal organisations.

— Herald with agencies

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