Brazil crisis heads into weekend of protests, negotiations

Brazil’s political crisis headed into a weekend dominated by protests and President Michel Temer’s attempt to secure enough allies to save himself after being accused of obstructing justice.

Temer needs to maintain sufficient backing in Congress to ward off calls for his impeachment barely a year after he took over in the wake of his predecessor Dilma Rousseff’s own impeachment.

On Sunday, temperatures will rise further with nationwide protests planned by leftist groups demanding Temer step down. The turnout at the protests will be closely watched as a gauge of the public mood.

On Friday, the Supreme Court released court filings in which Prosecutor General Rodrigo Janot accused Temer and a senior senator of attempting to block a huge anti-corruption investigation known as “Car Wash.”

This came after authorities released what they said was a secretly recorded conversation between Temer and a business executive in which the president is purported to have given his blessing to monthly payments of hush money to a jailed politician.

That politician — former lower house speaker Eduardo Cunha — is in prison after a “Car Wash” judge convicted him of bribe-taking.

The “Car Wash” investigation has upended Brazil with scores of politicians indicted or subject to probes into alleged bribe taking and embezzlement.

Cunha, formerly one of the most powerful insiders in Congress, has long been rumored to have threatened to spill secrets on other politicians to prosecutors.

Temer angrily denied any wrongdoing in a televised address Thursday and rebutted mounting calls for his resignation. He has not spoken in public since then.

Adding fuel to the fire was the release Friday of plea bargain testimony by executives at the huge JBS meatpacking company indicating that they had given Temer $4.6 million in bribes.

The executives also claimed to have paid $150 million in undeclared campaign funds to former presidents Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and Rousseff.

Opponents piled on the pressure, with eight impeachment requests filed in Congress.

The powerful Globo newspaper published an editorial at the top of its webpage demanding Temer resign.

“Not one citizen conscious of the obligations of citizenship can fail to recognize that the president has lost the moral, ethical, political and administrative conditions to continue governing Brazil,” the editorial said.

The beleaguered president was holed up Friday at the presidential palace with close aides, a government official told AFP on condition of anonymity.

“The government is working on three fronts to end the crisis: political, judicial and economic,” the source said.

Temer’s conservative government has angered millions of Brazilians with its ambitious austerity reforms, which include the planned raising of the retirement age to fix the country’s unaffordable pension system.

Temer is especially loathed on the left for his role in the impeachment of Rousseff. As her vice president, he immediately took over when she was pushed out.

On Thursday, thousands of people demonstrated against Temer in the capital Brasilia and in Rio de Janeiro.

Even a former chief justice of the Supreme Court, Joaquim Barbosa, said protesters should step in.

“There is no other way out. Brazilians must mobilize, must take to the streets to forcefully demand the immediate resignation of Michel Temer,” he said on Twitter.