Latin America & Caribbean

Brazil President Temer rejects bribery charge 'fiction'

Brazilian President Michel Temer speaks during a press statement at Planalto Palace in Brasilia Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Mr Temer's speech was his first reaction since the bribery charge was filed

Brazilian President Michel Temer has rejected a bribery charge against him, saying it is a "fiction" based on "revenge and vengeance".

In a passionate speech, he questioned the authenticity of the evidence presented by Brazil's chief prosecutor.

Mr Temer is accused of receiving money from the executives of a meatpacking firm implicated in a corruption scandal. He denies any wrongdoing.

It is the first time that a sitting Brazilian president has faced charges.

Mr Temer rejected the evidence presented by chief prosecutor Rodrigo Janot, saying he mounted a baseless case that was an assault on his "dignity" and sought to "paralyse" Brazil as it recovers from a two-year recession.

"Where are the concrete proofs of my receiving this money?" Mr Temer asked during the televised address from the presidential palace in Brasilia.

"I will not allow myself to be accused of crimes that I did not commit."

The charges have been delivered to a Supreme Court judge who must now decide if the case can be sent to the lower house of parliament.

If the corruption case reaches the lower house, Mr Temer's coalition believes it can gather enough votes to block the two-thirds majority needed for him to be put on trial in the court.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Rodrigo Janot is Brazil's chief prosecutor

JBS executives have been implicated in Operation Car Wash, the vast investigation into corruption at state oil giant Petrobras.

The investigation, launched in March 2014, centres on companies that were offered deals with Petrobras in exchange for bribes, which were funnelled into politicians' pockets and political-party slush funds.

Last month, an audio recording was released in which Mr Temer appears to be discussing bribes in conversation with JBS chairman Joesley Batista.

The recording, made using a hidden device, was presented in plea bargain negotiations between prosecutors and JBS executives.

Meanwhile, President Temer could face a further charge of obstruction of justice.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Many Brazilians say they are tired of years of political instability

Mr Temer, a former law professor, has vowed to remain in office despite calls for him to step down. Presidential elections are expected only in October 2018.

He is deeply unpopular in Brazil but his centre-right party has been able to govern as part of a coalition. His approval rate is just 7%, according to a recent opinion poll.

Brazilian politics has become engulfed in political scandal in recent years, with a third of Mr Temer's cabinet under investigation for alleged corruption.

Mr Temer's predecessor, leftist Dilma Rousseff, was removed from office following an impeachment vote in the Senate last year. She was accused of illegally manipulating the budget, a charge she strongly denied.

Since taking office, Mr Temer has led a market-friendly government which has tried to implement unpopular labour and pension reforms that, he says, are vital for Brazil's economic recovery.

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