Brazil’s transparency chief under pressure to quit over tape

Minister recorded giving legal advice to the Senate president, who is under investigation for links to corruption at Petrobras

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 bringing demands for his anti-corruption chief to quit.

TV Globo broadcast a recording of Transparency Minister Fabiano Silveira giving legal advice to the Senate president, who is under investigation for links to corruption at the state oil company 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 President Dilma Rousseff pending an impeachment trial and put the government in Temer’s hands.

Dozens of state level officials of the Transparency Ministry resigned Monday and many others said they would not recognize Silveira as their boss. In the capital of Brasilia, employees in Silveira’s ministry blocked him from entering the building. They also staged a protest in which they cleaned the front doors of the building and his office.

About 300 of the demonstrators moved to the front of the presidential palace calling on Temer to fire the second Cabinet minister in two weeks caught in recordings of conversations about the Petrobras case and Rousseff’s impeachment.

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.”

Brazilian media said Temer met Cabinet ministers in the afternoon and decided to keep Silveira on the job for now. The minister told the interim leader that he was not involved in any wrongdoing.

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.

Looking for more?

Get the Best of Maclean's sent straight to your inbox. Sign up for news, commentary and analysis.