A minister in Brazil’s new government has taken a leave of absence after he was secretly recorded apparently plotting to oust the former president in a bid to stall a huge corruption probe.
Planning minister Romero Juca is under investigation in the multibillion-pound kickback scheme at state oil company Petrobras.
Even some allies of acting president Michel Temer called for the firing or resignation of Juca, also a senator, who seems in the recording to be plotting how to remove Dilma Rousseff.
Juca initially said he would remain in office only to announce a few hours later that he was taking a leave of absence.
Ms Rousseff, Brazil’s first female president, was suspended from office by the Senate earlier this month for allegedly using accounting tricks to hide deficits in the budget to bolster support for her embattled government. She has repeatedly said she did nothing wrong.
“This shows the true reason behind the coup against our democracy and president Rousseff’s mandate,” said Ricardo Berzoini, former minister of political relations who lost his post when Rousseff was suspended.
“Their objective is to stop the Petrobras probe, to sweep the investigations under the rug.”
The day began with a published transcript of a conversation between Juca and Sergio Machado, a former senator who until recently headed another state oil company, Transpetro.
Soon after the transcripts were published by the newspaper Folha de S Paulo, Juca called a news conference and said that his comments were taken out of context.
By the afternoon, the newspaper posted on its website the hour-plus recorded conversation broken up into two parts. Juca never mentions the economy.
The recording is sure to deepen Brazil’s political crisis. Rousseff supporters and the president herself have long argued that her administration was the victim of a coup orchestrated by opposition politicians, in large part to dilute the Petrobras investigation.
Over the last two years, dozens of the country’s elite, from MPs to wealthy businessmen, have been tried and jailed.
Rousseff’s popularity was hit by the investigation. Much of the alleged wrongdoing took place while her Workers’ Party was in power over the last 13 years, though she herself has never been implicated.
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