Brazil's Chief Prosecutor Is Going After Top Politicians for Trying to Block Corruption Probe

The prosecutor has asked the supreme court to greenlight the arrest of four politicians tied to interim president Michel Temer who he alleges sought to halt the advance of the massive Lava Jato, or Car Wash, graft investigation.
June 8, 2016, 8:38pm
Photo by Fernando Bizerra Jr./EPA

Brazil's chief prosecutor has asked the supreme court to greenlight arrest warrants naming four senior associates of interim President Michel Temer, for allegedly seeking to block the advance of the massive Lava Jato, or Car Wash, corruption probe.

The requests come at a time of rising public distrust of Temer's government and his centrist party, the Brazilian Democratic Movement Party, or PMDB.

Temer was vice president under President Dilma Rousseff until he took over her job nearly four weeks ago when the senate voted to suspend her pending a trial for mismanaging the national accounts.

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Rousseff's supporters accuse him of benefiting from a "soft coup" at the same time as his all-male and all-white cabinet has been beset by allegations that it is not only retrograde but dirty too.

The Lava Jato probe has been going for two years and is centered on kickbacks and inflated contracts associated with the state-run energy company Petrobras. It has already led to the arrest of dozens of public figures and doesn't show any sign of letting up.

This week's four arrest requests made by Rodrigo Janot, the prosecutor general, name former president José Sarney, the recently suspended leader of the lower house of congress Eduardo Cunha, the current senate leader Renan Calheiros, and former planning minister Romero Jucá.

They are associated with audio recordings attached to the case of Sergio Machado, a former senator arrested in the Lava Jato probe who has since negotiated a plea bargain and who taped himself in conversations with the four named this week.

Jucá (featured in the middle of the photograph above, to the right of Calheiros) had already resigned his cabinet post following the leaking of some of the recordings in which he is heard appearing to suggest that impeaching Rousseff could help block Lava Jato.

"I'll wait with the peace of those who speak the truth," Jucá told congress on Tuesday, after news of the warrants was leaked to the newspaper O Globo. "I hope that this absurd situation can soon be solved."

The polling firm MDA Pesquisa released a study on Wednesday that found only 11 percent of Brazilians questioned approve of Temer's government, while 28 actively disapprove. The poll also found that just over half would like new elections to be held.

In the meantime, the Rousseff impeachment process continues to move along. The trial itself is due to take place in mid-August, smack in the middle of the Rio Olympic Games.

Related: The Effort to Impeach Rousseff Is Meant to Stop a Massive Corruption Probe, Tapes Suggest

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