October 26, 2016

Brazil’s Fabiano Silveira quits over corruption probe

Transparency Minister Silveira was the second member of the interim cabinet to leave in only 16 days [File: EPA]

Leaked recordings of heavyweight politicians discussing Brazil’s sprawling kickback scandal caused more headaches for acting President Michel Temer, with a new tape forcing his anti-corruption minister to quit.

Transparency Minister Fabiano Silveira was the second member of the interim administration to leave in only 16 days on Monday because of recorded conversations about the investigation into corruption at the state oil company Petrobras and the impeachment of President Dilma Rousseff.

The new turmoil started when TV Globo broadcast a recording of Silveira giving legal advice to the Senate president, who is under investigation for links to corruption at Petrobras. The recording also shows Silveira criticising the investigation itself, which has implicated some of Brazil’s most prominent politicians and businessmen.

In its report late on Sunday, TV Globo said Silveira had repeatedly contacted investigators in the Petrobras case to seek information on the accusations against Senate chief Renan Calheiros, but he did not succeed in getting any details.

The conversation was recorded at Calheiros’ residence some time before the Senate voted to suspend Rousseff pending an impeachment trial and put the government in Temer’s hands.

Anti-corruption protests

Brazilian media had said Temer met with Cabinet ministers in the afternoon and decided to keep Silveira on the job for now, with Silveira saying he was not involved in any wrongdoing. But later Silveira sent a letter of resignation, saying it was best that he leave the job “despite the fact that nothing is hitting my behaviour”.

Temer did not announce any pick to succeed Silveira, who came under intense criticism from Brazilians and international groups following the TV Globo report.

According to the union for workers at the Transparency Ministry, about 200 officials of the anti-corruption body offered their resignations to protest against Temer’s initial decision to keep Silveira in the job.

Earlier Monday, employees at the ministry blocked Silveira from entering the building in the capital of Brasilia. They also staged a protest in which they cleaned the front doors of the building and his office.

The newspaper O Globo printed an extra editorial to demand Silveira’s resignation, echoing calls by allies of Rousseff, who argues that her foes ousted her because she allowed the Petrobras investigation to go forward.

The Berlin-based watchdog group Transparency International also called for Silveira to go. In a statement, the group said it would halt any conversations with Temer’s interim administration “until a full investigation is conducted and a new minister with adequate experience in the fight against corruption is appointed.”

Another leaked recording forced Temer’s planning minister to take a leave of absence last week. In that recording, Romero Juca suggested there should be “a pact” to impeach Rousseff and appeared to link it to obstructing the Petrobras investigations.

Meanwhile, the newspaper O Estado de S Paulo reported that Temer’s seven-year-old son, Michelzinho, is the registered owner of properties worth $550,000. The interim president told the daily that he transferred the assets as a way to anticipate his will and that his daughters from previous marriages also received property in similar conditions.

The report also said Temer’s total assets nearly doubled between 2006 and 2014.

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