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Brazil president’s ally resigns in corruption scandal

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Brazil's President Michel Temer. / AFP PHOTO / EVARISTO SA

Brazil’s President Michel Temer. / AFP PHOTO / EVARISTO SA

A prominent Brazilian government minister resigned on Friday in a corruption scandal reportedly implicating President Michel Temer.

Government secretary Geddel Vieira Lima is the sixth minister to quit in Latin America’s biggest country since Temer took office in May.

It’s the latest development in a string of scandals that has snared numerous top politicians and threatens to engulf the conservative president himself. He has denied wrongdoing.

Brazilian newspapers reported another ex-minister telling police that Temer had pressured him to intervene in a business deal involving Vieira Lima.

Former culture minister Marcelo Calero said Temer and Vieira Lima asked him to approve a building project in the northeastern seaside city of Salvador de Bahia, where Vieira Lima has an apartment, Folha de Sao Paulo newspaper said.

Temer denied the allegation.

“The president treats all his ministers equally and never induced any of them to take any decision that might go against internal norms or his own convictions,” presidential spokesman Alexandre Parola said in a statement.

“That is how he dealt with the culture minister.”

However, the presidency said its ethics commission would investigate Vieira Lima for possible conflicts of interest.

– Counter-impeachment –
Temer, 76, took over as acting head of state in May before becoming full president in August after his leftist rival Dilma Rousseff was impeached.

Three of his ministers resigned after being named in a major corruption scandal involving the state oil firm Petrobras. Another quit over internal irregularities.

Calero resigned last week and Vieira Lima became number six on Friday.

“I am asking to be relieved of my position,” he said in a letter published in the media.

He was a key driver of Temer’s policies, including unpopular austerity measures the government says are needed to fix Brazil’s finances.

A key suspect in the Petrobras affair has reportedly made allegations against Temer. However, the president is not under any formal investigation so far.

Rousseff was impeached over unrelated allegations that she fiddled state accounts while in office.

Her allies have now threatened a motion to try to impeach Temer himself.

Rousseff’s leftist Workers’ Party said it had demanded to see a full copy of Calero’s testimony.

“If is found that there was a crime by officials, then an impeachment trial should be opened against Temer,” said the party’s leader in Congress, Afonso Florence.

– Spilling the beans –
Brazil entered a boom under Rousseff’s predecessor Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva from 2003 to 2010. But it plunged into recession last year.

Jailed construction tycoon Marcelo Odebrecht has reportedly implicated Temer in testimony to investigators over the Petrobras affair.

Now he is reported to be preparing to sign a plea bargain that could spill the beans about numerous top politicians.

The Sao Paulo stock exchange dipped 0.86 percent in early trading on Friday. The real currency weakened 1.32 percent against the dollar.

“It is all a consequence of this political situation. There is seen to be much instability,” market analyst Claudio Oliveira said.

“How will investors react if the Brazilian government falls again?”


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