Yesterday, news broke that Brazil’s President Michel Temer was caught on tape discussing hush money with the owner of the world’s leading meat producing company, JBS. Businessman Joesley Batista made an audio recording of a March 7 meeting with the president. At one point, he mentioned former House Speaker Eduardo Cunha – currently in jail.
The Supreme Court has now lifted the secrecy on the audio file, after Temer himself requested its release. Meaning, yes, anyone can access Temer’s incriminating conversation. For the record, the audio file is long and filled mostly with scratchy silence. The president believed making the tape public would “erase any doubts about his character”. But if you listen closely, enough evidence is there to charge Temer with crimes of corruption.
You can listen to the tape here:
After having access to the audio recording, the Supreme Court placed the president under investigation.
Batista discusses his efforts to give laundered money to Cunha in exchange for his silence. Cunha coordinated several corruption schemes during his tenure as Speaker. Since his imprisonment, he has repeatedly attempted to blackmail the political establishment by threatening to reveal his knowledge to authorities.
The businessman says he’d done “everything [he] could,” including “paying up everything he was due.” At one point, this is how the dialogue unfolds:
Batista: What have I managed to do so far? I’m on good terms with Eduardo [Cunha]
Temer: You’ve got to keep that going, okay? (inaudible)
Batista: Every month, yes.
Batista: I’m holding everything together.
In another part of the audio recording, Batista complains about his lack of access to Brazil’s National Development Bank and CADE, the government’s antitrust watchdog. Temer then gives the businessman a green light to harass Brazil’s Finance Minister, Henrique Meirelles. If Meirelles failed to cooperate, Batista should tell him to “speak with the president.”
Batista also comments that he has managed to recruit a mole within Operation Car Wash. At 12’11, he says: “I’ve managed to get to a prosecutor in the task force who’s feeding me information. I’m almost managing to get rid of the guy who’s after me.”
Even if Temer argues that his words have been misinterpreted, this last part is a dagger. When Joesley Batista says that he has an informant within the Federal Prosecution’s Office working to sabotage an ongoing investigation, Temer had the legal obligation to inform authorities.
By not doing so, the President committed a crime.
Protests have broken out across several cities asking for his resignation. Earlier today, Temer guaranteed he would remain in office. But will he be able to?