Rio De Janeiro — Brazilian President Michel Temer on Thursday rejected calls for his resignation, saying he will fight allegations that he endorsed the paying of hush money to a former lawmaker jailed for corruption.
Even in this country weary 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. Stocks and the currency plunged and rumors circulated that Temer would step down.
Instead, the embattled leader remained defiant in a national address to respond to a report by the newspaper late Wednesday that he was recorded endorsing payments to former lower House Speaker Eduardo Cunha.
“At no time did I authorize the paying of anyone,” Temer said emphatically, raising his voice and pounding his index finger against the podium. “I did not buy anybody’s silence.”
“I will not resign,” he said.
The Supreme Federal Tribunal has opened an investigation into the accusations and sent Temer the recordings at his request. Senior politicians can be investigated and tried only by Brazil’s highest court.
Following Globo’s report, Thursday began in a panic.
Within 90 minutes of the opening, Brazil’s main Ibovespa stock index dropped 10 percent and trading was stopped for 30 minutes. Brazil’s currency, the real, lost 8 percent of its value against the U.S. dollar, according to the Central Bank’s closing figure. Congress cancelled its sessions, including suspending work on legislation that Temer’s administration hopes will pull Latin America’s largest economy out of its worst recession in decades.
The pressure built against Temer throughout the day, with reports that Cabinet ministers were considering quitting their posts and opposition politicians calling for his impeachment.
“There are parties leaving his base, ministers leaving the Cabinet. Even if the recordings don’t show something that terrible, you can’t put the toothpaste back in the tube,” said Claudio Couto, a political science professor at Fundacao Getulio Vargas, a Sao Paulo-based university and think tank. “If Temer doesn’t fall, he will lead a walking dead administration.”
Protests were planned for later Thursday.
Five of the top 10 trending topics in Brazil on Twitter were related to the scandal, including the subject “Temer will resign.” Many Brazilians expressed shock on social media when Temer finally spoke Thursday night and said he would stay in power.
“Michel Temer is like that boyfriend who doesn’t know it’s over,” one Twitter user said.
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