By Lise Alves, Senior Contributing Reporter
SÃO PAULO, BRAZIL – If the economic slump, high unemployment and protests against government measures weren’t enough, Brazil’s President Michel Temer now tries to defuse the tension between Senate President, Renan Calheiros and Supreme Court Chief Justice, Carmen Lucia Rocha.
The heads of the legislative and judiciary powers traded harsh words this week over the role of judiciary in the arrest of Senate police officials by federal police. The riff may delay Congressional approval of much-needed economic measures.
The disagreement started when Calheiros publicly criticized a federal trial court judge for ordering the arrest of four legislative police officials, accused of sweeping the homes and offices of at least four Congressional representatives for legally authorized wiretaps.
The police officials are believed to have been trying to protect Senators connected to the widespread Lava Jato corruption scandal. At least two Congressional representatives admitted to asking Senate police officials to conduct a sweep of their homes for listening devices.
“A ‘second-class’ judge can not go against another government branch,” said Calheiros. The remarks were quickly rebuffed by the Chief Justice who said, “It is not acceptable to diminish or demoralize any judge. When a judge is insulted, so am I.”
According to political analysts, government officials now fear that the disagreement will spill over into Senate hearings, specifically a Constitutional amendment which was approved by the Lower House this week to limit government spending for the next twenty years. The Senate is expected to vote on the amendment at the beginning of December, but it is up to the Upper House’s president to set the agenda.
Friday’s meeting will be President Temer’s second attempt to bring the two officials together. On Wednesday, President Temer called a meeting between the two at his office, but the Chief Justice declined, stating she had ‘agenda problems’.