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Brazilian President Michel Temer, accused of bribery, says he will not resign

19 May 2017

Thursday saw a massive sell-off of shares in Brazil prompted by fears that President Michel Temer could be ousted.

The statement from Temer's office confirmed that the president did meet with Batista in March.

When Mr Batista told Mr Temer he was paying Cunha to remain silent, the president was recorded saying, "You need to keep that up, okay?" the newspaper reported.

He is accused of having given his blessing to payments meant to keep the former speaker of the lower house, Eduardo Cunha, from spilling secrets while he is in prison for taking millions of dollars in bribes.

Temer was Rousseff's former vice president and has been serving as interim President since her suspension in May 2016.

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Among those mentioned as possible candidates in an indirect election of president by Congress are Finance Minister Henrique Meirelles, Chief Justice Carmen Lucia Rocha and former Defense Minister Nelson Jobim.

Even in this country tired from the constant drip of revelations of a wide-ranging corruption investigation, the incendiary accusation set off a firestorm and Brazil's highest court opened an investigation. He cleared the rest of the day's schedule to react to the crisis and was expected to address the nation on national TV within hours, aides said.

Many believe that Cunha, who was widely viewed as Brazil's most powerful politician before being ensnared in several corruption cases, could provide damaging testimony about dozens of others if he reaches a plea bargain with investigators.

The O Globo newspaper reported on Wednesday night that Temer met in March with Joesley Batista, chairman of meat company JBS SA (JBSS3.SA), which grew rapidly under 13 years of leftist Workers Party rule due largely to low-priced loans from Brazil's national development bank.

But with lawmakers under the cloud of corruption, there are widespread calls in Brazil that the constitution be changed to allow for direct elections now.

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O Globo's report, which three unidentified sources familiar with the matter told the Reuters news agency that it was accurate, threatened to pull Temer into a corruption scandal that has already entangled several of his closest allies and advisers. Rousseff, eventually did get impeached herself, though not over these corruption allegations, but for breaking fiscal laws when her government moved funds between official programmes to hide a budget deficit. He said he didn't buy anyone's silence.

Calls for Temer's removal gathered steam as opposition Senator Randolfe Rodrigues promised non-stop protests until Temer resigns.

Both chambers of Congress were suspended amid the latest crisis in the government of less than a year.

The new scandal could further undermine support in Congress for austerity reforms, particularly a push to raise the minimum age for retirement in a bid to fix Brazil's costly pension system. According to recent data released by pollster Datafolha, Temer's popularity rating is less than 9%.

The WWF described the plan as an "offensive", involving an area of about 80 thousand square kilometers, "almost the size of the territory of Portugal".

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Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) working on indigenous rights and environmental conservation in Brazil said removing the agency would leave Brazil's indigenous tribes unprotected from an advancing agricultural frontier. "This is the same vision that wants to destroy the forests of Brazil".

Brazilian President Michel Temer, accused of bribery, says he will not resign