SAO PAOLO, BRAZIL —
Brazilians around the country staged demonstrations Sunday calling for their president to step down after the supreme court opened an investigation into allegations he endorsed the payment of hush money to a jailed former lawmaker.
The accusations against President Michel Temer have plunged Latin America's largest nation into crisis yet again, sending its currency and stocks plummeting and stalling a series of reforms designed to pull the economy out of a protracted recession. It's been just a year since Temer took over as president following the impeachment and removal of his predecessor, Dilma Rousseff.
Now, the calls are growing for Temer himself to be impeached or resign. The latest to join that chorus was Brazil's bar association, which voted late Saturday to submit a request for Temer's impeachment to Congress.
On Sunday, several hundred people huddled under umbrellas and building porticos to avoid the rain in Sao Paulo as they called for Temer to leave office. Many said they have opposed Temer since he took over from Rousseff because they regard her impeachment as politically motivated and illegitimate. On Sunday, they were protesting Temer's proposals to loosen labor laws and change the pension system as much as they were responding to the recent allegations.
“We're here to get Temer out of government because he is a coup-leader, because he is against teachers” and other workers, said Tatiana Camargos, a 41-year-old biology teacher.
Others said the latest revelations confirmed their suspicions of widespread corruption.
“It is funny because we have always said that they rob,” said Ana Borguin, a 28-year-old subway worker. “But in fact now we have a concrete proof and the worst thing is that they do it openly and talks about millions as if they were talking about a grocery shopping.”
In Rio de Janeiro, protests were smaller than expected. Around 150 people waved union flags along Rio's Copacabana beach, and they signed a giant banner with messages, such as, “Out with Temer” and “I want a better Brazil.” Another 100 people marched to the house of Rodrigo Maia, speaker of the lower house of Congress, to call for Temer's ouster and immediate elections.
Temer has defied calls to resign, saying the recording was doctored and denying any wrongdoing. The recording appears to have Temer endorsing the payment of bribes to ex-House Speaker Eduardo Cunha in exchange for his silence. Cunha is serving a sentence after a corruption conviction.
Temer has asked the Supreme Federal Tribunal, Brazil's highest court, to suspend its investigation into him - something that it is unlikely to do.
Attorney General Rodrigo Janot, who has accused Temer of corruption and obstruction of justice in the case before the court, has said that a preliminary analysis of the recording showed that the conversation it contained was logical and coherent and its contents were consistent with the testimony of people cooperating with the prosecutor's office.
Some allied political parties have already withdrawn their support for Temer and others are considering it. The proposals to change the labor law and pension system have stalled in Congress amid the political turmoil, and many fear the country will remain in limbo for as long as Temer is in power.