Brazil President Buys Time in Effort to Avoid Impeachment

    President Michel Temer in the Air Force helicopter - Beto Barata/PR

    A key coalition partner has delayed its decision on continued support, but Brazilian President Michel Temer continues to face nationwide street protests. Another impeachment request has been lodged with Congress.

    Key allies to his center-right PMDB party, the PSDB social democrats had been set to decide on Sunday whether to withdraw from President Michel Temer’s coalition government.

    The PSDB has four ministers, 47 lower house deputies and 10 senators. It represents an important voting bloc both for approving reforms and for deciding on any impeachment of the president.

    Brazilian unions called Brazil’s first nationwide strike in 21 years against a tough austerity and reform bill put forward by President Michel Temer.

    The bill aims to reduce labor costs and erode the power of unions. Temer said he hopes it will kickstart an economy battered by a recession. Workers’ Groups think the reforms go too far and question the government’s legitimacy.

    But without explanation, the PSDB meeting was canceled. Temer met with ministers and legislators at his residence on Sunday, although a planned dinner did not take place due to a lower than expected attendance, according to the Folha de S. Paulo daily newspaper.

    “He has won a bit of time,” Gesner Oliveira, a professor at the Fundação Getúlio Vargas in Rio de Janeiro, told the Agence France-Presse news agency.

    Impeachment

    Late Saturday, the Order of Brazilian Lawyers (OAB) voted overwhelmingly to lodge an impeachment request with Congress. The bar association was also influential in the impeachment of former President Dilma Rousseff last year.

    The OAB said Temer had failed to denounce criminal activities, broke with presidential decorum and promised undue favors to individuals.

    “We are going to ask for the impeachment of another president of the republic, the second in a year and four months,” OAB President Claudio Lamachia said in a statement.

    There are at least eight other requests for impeachment filed in Congress.

    Street Protests

    Street protests took place in each of Brazil’s major cities on Sunday, organized by leftist groups condemning corruption and calling for the president to step down.

    But only a few hundred people turned up to each rally, including those in São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, far fewer than the tens of thousands who had rallied in previous months.

    Protesters in São Paulo braved the rain, chanted and held banners reading “Temer Out!” Many said they were protesting Temer’s proposals to loosen labor laws and change the pension system as much as they were responding to the recent allegations.

    Temer: Evidence ‘Doctored’

    Temer tried to discredit evidence lodged against him in a televised speech on Saturday. The president claims an audio recording of a meeting in March with food company chairman Joesley Batista, in which they appear to discuss payoffs and influence-trafficking, has been doctored.

    The recording appears to have Temer endorsing the payment of bribes to ex-House Speaker Eduardo Cunha in exchange for his silence. Cunha is serving a 15-year jail sentence after a conviction for corruption. He was instrumental in Rousseff’s impeachment.

    Should Temer be impeached or decide to resign, Congress would pick a replacement to rule until after elections scheduled for next year.

    DW

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