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World

Brazil's Transparency Chief Quits Over Corruption Probe Tape

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

Ministerial staff use brooms to scrub the office door of the Transparency Minister Fabiano Silveira demanding his resignation, in Brasilia, photo: AP/Eraldo Peres
2 years ago

RIO DE JANEIRO — Leaked recordings of heavyweight politicians discussing Brazil’s sprawling kickback scandal caused more headaches for acting President Michel Temer on Monday, 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 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 criticizing the investigation itself, which has implicated some of Brazil’s most prominent politicians and businessmen.

In its report late 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.

Brazil's acting President Michel Temer (C-L) talks with President of the National Congress Sen. Renan Calheiros (C-R) accompanied by Planning Minister Romero Juca (L) and Finance Minister Henrique Meirelles (R) talk during a meeting to deliver to Congress the revision project of the government's fiscal target, in Brasilia, Brazil, Monday, May 23, 2016. Photo: AP/Eraldo Peres

Brazil’s acting President Michel Temer (C-L) talks with President of the National Congress Sen. Renan Calheiros (C-R) accompanied by Planning Minister Romero Juca (L) and Finance Minister Henrique Meirelles (R) talk during a meeting to deliver to Congress the revision project of the government’s fiscal target, in Brasilia, Brazil, Monday, May 23, 2016. Photo: AP/Eraldo Peres

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 behavior.”

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 Temer’s initial decision to keep Silveira on 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.”

Ministerial staffers take part in a protest demanding the resignation of the newly-appointed Transparency Minister Fabiano Silveira, pictured in the center of the poster along with Senate President Renan Calheiros (L) with a message that reads in Portuguese; "Ministry of Illegal Lobbying: Despicable Renan, Big Chief; Dirty Fabiano, Follows Orders; Trickster Narcio Tranquiera, Delinquent  - WANTED!", at the ministry's headquarters, in Brasilia, Brazil, Monday, May 30, 2016. Photo: AP/Eraldo Peres

Ministerial staffers take part in a protest demanding the resignation of the newly-appointed Transparency Minister Fabiano Silveira, pictured in the center of the poster along with Senate President Renan Calheiros (L) with a message that reads in Portuguese; “Ministry of Illegal Lobbying: Despicable Renan, Big Chief; Dirty Fabiano, Follows Orders; Trickster Narcio Tranquiera, Delinquent – WANTED!”, at the ministry’s headquarters, in Brasilia, Brazil, Monday, May 30, 2016. Photo: AP/Eraldo Peres

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. He denied any wrongdoing or intention to stop the investigations.

O Globo’s editorial said that “Temer needs to apply the same rule that he applied to Juca: There can be no conspiracy against Operation Car Wash,” a reference to the Petrobras probe. “It is the only way that his public commitment to support the operation and to fight against corruption will be taken seriously.”

Meanwhile, the newspaper O Estado de S.Paulo reported that Temer’s 7-year-old son, Michelzinho, is the registered owner of real estate 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 real estate in similar conditions.

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

MAURICIO SAVARESE

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