Brazilian President Michel Temer, facing growing calls for his resignation amid a corruption scandal, will not step down even if he is formally indicted by the Supreme Court, he said in an interview in the Folha de S. Paulo newspaper yesterday.
Brazilians who have become inured to the massive, three-year corruption investigation were shocked last week by the disclosure of a recording that appeared to show Temer condoning the payment of hush money to a lawmaker jailed in a corruption probe.
The Supreme Court has opened an investigation into the revelations that were part of plea bargain testimony by the billionaire owners of meatpacking giant JBS SA. A decision by the court is expected on Wednesday.
"I will not resign. Oust me if you want, but if I stepped down, I would be admitting guilt," said Temer, who has said the recording of his meeting with JBS chairman Joesley Batista was doctored and has asked the Supreme Court to suspend its investigation.
The scandal has threatened to tear apart Temer's coalition in Congress and leave Latin America's largest economy adrift as the president fights for his political survival, just a year after the impeachment of his predecessor.
Temer told the newspaper he is "absolutely" sure that he is capable of finishing his term through the end of 2018 without giving up on his legislative agenda, which includes an ambitious overhaul of the country's labor and social security regulations.
His coalition had already been struggling to muster the votes for the unpopular social security reform. Financial markets, which had largely anticipated approval of the reforms, slumped last week when the scandal broke.
"I will demonstrate political strength in coming weeks precisely by putting important bills to vote (in Congress)," Temer told Folha.
The president, who took office a year ago after the ouster of former running mate Dilma Rousseff, has come under unrelenting pressure to step down and let Congress elect a new president for the remainder of his term.
Late Saturday, the Brazilian Bar Association said it would file an impeachment motion against Temer in Congress, arguing that the recording, if proven to be accurate, showed a dereliction of presidential duties to uphold the law.
Hundreds of demonstrators marched on Sunday in cities including São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, chanting and waving banners reading "Temer Out!"
About the author
Research Associate at Center for Islam and Global Affairs (CIGA) at Istanbul Sabahattin Zaim University