BRASILIA – Brazilian President Michel Temer needs to “facilitate an exit” from the crisis spurred by corruption allegations against him, a senior member of the ruling PMDB party said Tuesday.
Temer should step aside and allow Congress to choose a new president “as quickly as possible,” the leader of the PMDB in the Senate, Renan Calheiros, told Radio Gaucha.
“I would not say that I am in favor of a resignation,” the senator said, though adding that the best prospect for a rapid resolution of the crisis would be for Congress to designate a new head of state.
It is “fundamental,” Calheiros said, “that the president understand his role in history ... and accommodate himself to facilitating the most viable path.”
The crisis ignited by the revelation of the existence of a recording in which Temer is heard to discuss payments of hush money to a witness in a corruption probe “is very serious and is evolving rapidly,” the senator said.
“There is no way to manage this scenario. Things are very difficult and sooner or later we will reach an end,” Calheiros said, alluding to a possible removal of Temer as a result of the judicial process.
The senator made it clear that as far as he knew, Temer was not planning to resign.
Leading daily O Globo reported last week that the chairman of Brazilian meatpacking giant JBS, Joesley Batista, told prosecutors as part of plea-bargain testimony that he had secretly recorded a conversation with Temer about payoffs to Eduardo Cunha, a former speaker of Brazil’s lower house and close ally of Temer.
Cunha was convicted in March of receiving bribes in connection with a petroleum contract Brazilian state oil company Petrobras signed in the African nation of Benin, and sentenced to 15 years and four months in prison.
Dozens of high-profile politicians and company executives also have been ensnared in a massive bribes-for-inflated-contracts scandal centered on Petrobras.
Temer’s legal troubles are the latest development in the Petrobras investigation, which is known as Car Wash. A former Brazilian president, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, faces several corruption trials related to the probe, including one in which he is accused of being the “chief commander” of the massive graft scheme.
Cunha was the driving force behind last year’s legislative effort that led to the ouster from office of Lula’s protege and successor, Dilma Rousseff, for violating budget laws. She was replaced by Temer, who had been her vice president.
Temer denies any wrongdoing and vows not to resign.
Because the mid-point of Rousseff’s original term has passed, it would be up to Congress to choose a successor if Temer quit, but bills have already been drafted in both houses to move up the date of the next presidential election from 2018 to this year.