By the end of 2016, Brazil was waiting for public disclosure of the destructive Odebrecht plea deals. In these deals, 77 former executives outlined the ins and outs of corruption schemes taking place at the federal level. But just a few months later, Brazil will need to contend with an even more destructive plea bargain, as Brazil’s President Michel Temer was allegedly caught on tape authorizing businessmen to bribe former House Speaker Eduardo Cunha.
The information was revealed by reporter Lauro Jardim, from the Brazilian newspaper O Globo. According to the report, brothers Joesley and Wesley Batista, owners of JBS – the world’s leading meat company – secretly taped a 40-minute meeting on March 7 with President Temer. The Federal Police assisted in the recordings. The brothers have agreed to provide these tapes to the Supreme Court as part of a plea bargain.
According to the journalist, one of these audio recordings catches Temer green-lighting the Batistas to pay a monthly allowance to former House Speaker (and poster boy for corruption) Eduardo Cunha in exchange for his silence. When the subject of bribery is brought up, Temer allegedly says: “You’ve got to keep that [the bribes] going, okay?”
Eduardo 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.
This new scandal plunges Brazil into an entirely new level of uncertainty, even by our standards. It is unclear how this latest revelation will affect the country’s economy, and moreover, if it will be possible for Temer to remain in office.
This scandal is extremely damaging to Brazil’s president. Not only could it offer solid proof that Temer tried to obstruct an ongoing investigation while in office, but it erupted just a few weeks before Brazil’s Superior Court will launch an unrelated trial that threatens to unseat him for illegal financing.
Members of the opposition have begun impeachment talks. “Temer’s government essentially ended today,” said Randolfe Rodrigues, an opposing senator. The Workers’ Party is calling for the resignation of Michel Temer and new elections. Hundreds of congressmen began to chant on the House floor to ask for new, direct presidential elections.
The bomb left the government without a reaction. Congress quickly emptied. After the news surfaced, incumbent Speaker Rodrigo Maia left Congress and refused to speak with journalists. Not even Temer’s closest allies have defended the administration.
Other politicians caught on tape
The revelations made by the Batista brothers to federal prosecutors suggest that congressmen were selling pieces of legislation as though they were merchandise. Eduardo Cunha, for instance, asked JBS for 20 million BRL to pass a bill for tax cuts on poultry products.
As with the Odebrecht plea deal, the revelations made by the Batistas will tarnish all parties. The brothers also revealed that they have a tape recording of Senator Aécio Neves, the runner-up in the 2014 presidential election, asking for 2 million BRL. On top of that, the 2 million BRL given to Neves consisted of bills with marked serial numbers, and monitored by the Federal Police. In fact, the Feds were helping the Batista brothers to build evidence against the political establishment.
Joesley Batista also named Guido Mantega, a former Finance Minister, as his contact within the Workers’ Party. Mantega was the individual who negotiated illegal contributions.
What happens next?
The first year of Michel Temer’s presidency has seen no shortage of scandals, but none this perilous. It is unclear what will come of Brazil’s political leaders, as every single major party has now been compromised. The prospect of a second impeachment within a one-year span is becoming ever more likely, and the ailing Brazilian economy risks suffering yet another blow.