By Lise Alves, Senior Contributing Reporter
SÃO PAULO, BRAZIL – An earthquake shook Brazil’s government on Wednesday (May 17th) night with reports that President Michel Temer was recorded giving his endorsement to the pay-off of a top politician for his silence. Opposition and allied leaders alike have called the President to resign.
Testimony given by JBS President, Joesley Batista, to federal prosecutors, states that Batista met with President Temer in March and that Brazil’s leader suggested that the CEO continue to render a ‘monthly allowance’ to former Chamber of Deputies President, Eduardo Cunha, for his silence.
Cunha is currently in jail for involvement in the Lava Jato (Carwash) corruption scandal. There has been speculation that he was considering a plea-bargaining agreement with prosecutors.
Batista is said to have recorded the meeting with the President. According to daily O Globo, Batista told Temer that an allowance was paid to Cunha so that he would not enter a plea-bargaining deal with prosecutors, to which the President allegedly responded, “You have to continue this [payment], ok?”
The recordings also reveal, according to O Globo, that Temer assigned congressional representative Rodrigo Rocha Loures to ‘take care’ of the problems faced by J&F Investments, a main stockholder of JBS, one of the largest meat processing company in the world.
Negotiations called for the company to pay over R$480 million during twenty years, at R$500,000 per week, to Temer’s PMDB party. According to federal police, Loures was filmed receiving a briefcase with R$500,000 sent by Batista.
The JBS president agreed to a plea-bargain with federal prosecutors in March, after being implicated in corruption in the Lava Jato scandal. During April, Batista is said to have sat down several times with investigators to reveal illicit donations made to politicians by JBS in exchange for favors and benefits.
Last week prosecutors launched an investigation into irregular loans made by Brazilian Development Bank, BNDES, to JBS, totaling more than R$8 billion.
The news of the recordings spread quickly throughout congress on Wednesday afternoon, leading Chamber of Deputies President, Rodrigo Maia, to interrupt Chamber sessions. By Wednesday night several key lawmakers, both from the opposition and allied parties, were demanding answers, with many calling Temer to resign.
“The resignation of the President has become an imperative not to aggravate the crisis even further. The Temer government ended today,” PSB national president Carlos Siqueira was quoted by local media as saying. The PSB party heads the Ministry of Mines and Energy.
“The Temer government, after these accusations, is unable to sustain itself politically, socially. It is a government that is over. And since it is over [Temer] has to resign,” said Representative Carlos Zarattini, leader of the PT party in the Chamber of Deputies.
After an emergency meeting with top allies, President Temer released a statement Wednesday night denying any wrongdoing. “President Michel Temer has never requested payments to silence former Chamber President Eduardo Cunha,” read the statement.
Adding, “He did not participate in and did not authorize any action with the aim of avoiding plea-bargains or collaboration with the Justice system by the former Congressman.”