Brazil’s Temer wins Congressional votes to block graft charge

BRASILIA (Reuters) – Brazil’s lower house of Congress voted on Wednesday to reject a corruption charge against President Michel Temer for allegedly taking bribes, saving him from facing a possible Supreme Court trial that could have ousted him from office.

Temer won enough ballots to keep the opposition from gaining the two-thirds of the vote required to move the corruption case forward to the top court.

The strong show of support for Temer raised the prospects that he can now move ahead with reform of Brazil’s pension system that is crucial to plug a wide budget deficit and revive investor confidence in an economy emerging from recession.

But Temer is widely expected to face more corruption charges in the coming weeks, which would again put his presidency at stake.

Opposition lawmakers, carrying briefcases stuffed with fake money, chanted “Out with Temer!” on the House floor at the start of the day-long tumultuous session.

Temer’s main coalition ally, the Brazilian Social Democracy Party (PSDB), which seeks to win the presidential election next year, was split on whether to back Temer, whose economic policies it shares, or distance itself from his corruption-plagued government.

Demonstrator protests with a face mask of Brazil’s President Michel Temer, during a vote on sending corruption charges against Temer to the Supreme Court for trial in Brasilia, Brazil August 2, 2017.Adriano Machado

PSDB leader Ricardo Tripoli, calling for the charge to be approved, said Temer must be investigated, “not because we want to oust the president, but because Brazilians are tired of so much suspicion surrounding their politicians.”

To shield Temer only further undermines the credibility of Brazil’s political system, Tripoli said.

Brazil’s stocks and currency rose earlier on Wednesday after a cloture vote signaled a victory for Temer and robust support for his reform agenda to cut spending and restore confidence in government accounts.

Brazil’s top prosecutor Rodrigo Janot in June charged Temer with arranging to eventually receive a total of 38 million reais ($12.16 million) in bribes from the world’s largest meatpacker, JBS SA in return for political favors.

Temer and his legal team have denied any wrongdoing.

His supporters have said that Janot failed to provide proof that he had broken the law.

Additional reporting by Maria Carolina Marcello, Ricardo Brito and Lisandra Paraguassú in Brasilia, Bruno Federowski in Sao Paulo; Editing by Alistair Bell and Richard Chang

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