Late Wednesday night, the Brazilian nightly news reported the “end-of-the-world” plea bargain to set off the nation. The plea deals of JBS owners and brothers Joesley Batista and Wesley Batista include criminalizing recordings of many prominent politicians. One such politician is Brazil’s own President Temer, who already faces allegations of corruption and money laundering. Many took to the streets calling for his immediate removal from office. But before we get ahead of ourselves, what exactly stands in the way of a Temer impeachment?
Your questions answered here.
1. Why haven’t the plea deal recordings gone public yet?
As with the Odebrecht documents, the JBS plea deal remains under wraps for the time being. So far, only the press has had access to their contents. Moreover, they haven’t yet accessed the audio files. Only after the Supreme Federal Court lifts the secrecy on the testimonies can the wider public have access to the plea deal’s contents.
2. What are the ways in which Temer can be removed from office?
Case A: Impeachment. House Speaker Rodrigo Maia (DEM-RJ) is currently deciding on a formal request for Temer’s impeachment. From there, both houses of Congress must vote on the impeachment. To pass, the request requires at least two-thirds of the vote. The time frame for impeachment is a question of politics. Dilma’s impeachment, for example, took ten months. Meanwhile, Fernando Collor’s impeachment took just three – also on charges of corruption.
Case B: Resignation. Temer could decide to resign from office on his own. If he faces enough public and political pressure, he may just do so. However, resigning from office means he loses certain legal privileges (see: foro privilegiado.)
Case C: Cassation by the Superior Electoral Court (TSE). Temer may go down first for allegedly accepting bribes in the 2014 Dilma-Temer presidential campaign. This would allow for Temer’s removal as a legal technicality rather than a political “ousting”.
3. Can Temer go to jail?
Normally, no president can be investigated for crimes committed before taking office. However, the JBS plea deal presents criminalizing statements made during Temer’s presidency (March 2017). Moreover, the Supreme Court has just authorized the Attorney General’s request to put Temer under investigation. Following the investigation, the Attorney General may press formal charges and put Temer on trial. If judged guilty, then yes, Temer is looking at jail time.
4. If impeached, will there be direct or indirect elections?
Since two years have already passed since the Dilma-Temer administration took office in January 2015, Congress would have to call for an indirect election within 30 days of Temer’s removal. Only congressmen would be eligible to vote for the presidential choice. House Speaker Rodrigo Maia (DEM-RJ), himself a target in Operation Car Wash, would be next in line to take presidential office. Whoever takes office would only be president until the end of the mandate on December 31, 2018.
In another twist, Congress could also choose to make a constitutional amendment to anticipate the 2018 presidential elections. With two-thirds of the vote, Brazil could be facing new direct elections sooner than expected.
5. Is it even legal to record someone without their consent?
The Brazilian Constitution protects the privacy of telephone conversations, be it the president or otherwise. However, the Supreme Court has already authorized the recording of the conversation for criminal processing, as long as it is released by one of the two people involved.
In the case of a bugged conversation, third-party actors can only intercept conversations with judicial authorization. Moreover, recordings done without authorization cannot be used as evidence.
6. What happens to Temer’s controversial social reforms?
Regardless of whether or not Temer is impeached or sent to jail, these recordings have left his administration politically inviable. The political pressure resulting from the JBS plea deal may very well dissolve Temer’s majority in Congress – a majority political coalition he desperately needed to pass the labor and pension reforms, still up for debate.
Brazil’s future remains as uncertain as ever.