The Senate-imposed government of Brazil’s unelected President Michel Temer is already in hot water less than two weeks after taking over from suspended President Dilma Rousseff as his Planning Minister Romero Juca was forced to step aside over a shocking leaked recording that revealed the then-senator conspired with members of the Supreme Court and military commanders to oust Rousseff and protect corrupt officials from facing justice.
The news is the biggest political bombshell to hit Brazil amid the ongoing attempt to permanently impeach Rousseff, raising serious questions about the role of the Supreme Court and military in the plot to remove the president and giving new weight to long-sidelined arguments that the impeachment process is a coup.
Juca announced on Monday, hours after Folha de Sao Paulo broke the story, that he will step aside starting Tuesday in light of the leak. Although Juca did not officially resign, he is not expected to return to his post as interim minister of planning and development, according to sources reported by the Brazilian daily O Globo.
Ahead of Juca’s announcement, O Globo published an editorial calling on Temer to fire his right-hand man to avoid “more troubles.” The call suggests that Brazil’s corporate media, which have been accused of coup-mongering throughout the impeachment bid against Rousseff, are presenting Juca as a “bad apple” in Temer’s inner circle, rather than a reflection of the rampant systemic corruption in Brazil’s Congress and the Senate-imposed government.
Juca, a former senator and head of Temer’s PMDB party, is one of seven members of Temer’s cabinet facing investigation as part of "Operation Car War" into corruption and bribery linked to the Petrobras state oil scandal.
The Coup That Ousted Brazilian Democracy
In the leaked recording, Juca is heard discussing Rousseff’s potential ouster with Sergio Machado, former president of the oil company Transpetro, a state subsidiary of Petrobras.
The then-senator says that he has talked to members of the Supreme Court and is also speaking to military commanders. “It’s all fine, they say they will guarantee it,” he says to Machado in the recording. He adds that the military is monitoring the Landless Workers’ Movement or MST, one of the largest social movements in Latin America that has been critical but supportive of the Rousseff government, in order to avoid “disturbances.”
The conversation reveals that Juca and Machado, both targets of the Operation Car Wash probes, see removing Rousseff from office as a way to put an end to the Supreme Court’s investigations and protect themselves and their allies.
After Juca stepped aside, Temer appointed Dyogo Oliveira as planning minister. Oliveira is under investigation as part of the corruption probe known as Operation Zealot, O Globo reported.
Amid the scandal, Temer has continued to forge ahead with his neoliberal agenda for the country, announcing on Tuesday plans to push privatization in the name of boosting the economy.
The Senate voted to suspend Rousseff for 180 days on May 12 to face an impeachment trial over accusations of budget manipulations. The leaked recordings confirm that the impeachment bid against her is more about protecting corruption than rooting it out.
Evidence in the recording that Juca was conspiring with the Supreme Court and military generals to ensure Rousseff’s ouster also gives new weight to arguments that the plan to remove her from office constitutes a coup.