Key Minister In Brazil's New Government Steps Down After Tape Is Leaked
RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:
If you think politics are rough in Washington, D.C, take a listen to this.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
UNIDENTIFIED CROWD: (Chanting in Portuguese).
MONTAGNE: That's the sound of Brazil's brand new interim president being jeered in the country's Senate. It's only been two weeks since the previous president was ousted, and Brazil's new government is already at the center of a scandal. Let's get the latest from NPR's Lulu Garcia-Navarro, who's on the line from Rio de Janeiro. And, Lulu, the former president Dilma Rousseff is going on trial in that Senate. A new interim government is in place. And now it, too, is in trouble. So how did Brazil get to this?
LOURDES GARCIA-NAVARRO, BYLINE: It all centers around a massive corruption investigation at the state oil company. To remind you, this investigation, Renee, has been going on for two years. It has put billionaire businessmen in jail. It has implicated many, many politicians from all sides of the political spectrum.
But the problems for this government began pretty much immediately when the new cabinet was appointed. You have to remember this interim government is unelected. It replaced Dilma Rousseff as she waits for trial in the Senate, as you mentioned. Michel Temer, the interim president, not only appointed an all-white and male cabinet, initially, in what is a very diverse country, but he put in eight ministers who were implicated in that corruption scandal, which has raised a lot of alarm bells here.
MONTAGNE: Right. It sounds like the interim government is barely there and not doing so well already.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Yeah. You know, one of the new cabinet ministers who was implicated has just taken a quote, unquote "leave of absence," which by another name is that he was forced to step down. His name is Romero Juca. He was the planning minister. And he is a key ally of Temer, the interim president. He's under investigation in the scandal for accepting bribes. And the biggest newspaper in Brazil released these secret recordings yesterday. Let's take a listen.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
FORMER MINISTER OF BUDGET AND PLANNING ROMERO JUCA: (Speaking Portuguese).
GARCIA-NAVARRO: It's really bad audio. But in these secret recordings, Juca is allegedly discussing a plot to remove President Dilma Rousseff from power and stop the investigation in which he is implicated. What's really so, I think, chilling about this audio and what has resonated so much here in Brazil and across the region is this section. He says he has spoken to the military commanders in Brazil who said they would stop left-wing groups from causing problems once his plot is enacted. This is a country where there were many, many years of brutal military dictatorship. And the idea that a politician in a democracy would collude with the military in order to suppress dissent is really shocking to many people here.
MONTAGNE: It - so altogether, what has been the reaction?
GARCIA-NAVARRO: First, you know, let's remind people that the ousted president Dilma Rousseff, who is from the left, was tortured by a military dictatorship when she was young. So we've seen, this past weekend, large protests on the streets in major cities against Temer's government. As you heard, in the Senate, they say that this was all a coup enacted to put in a right-wing government to change the agenda of Brazil. It's a very difficult period here in Brazil. We have a very divided country. And the new interim government is really, really struggling with its legitimacy.
I'll say this. There are apparently new secret recordings of other politicians coming down the pipeline, according to the media. We have that trial in the Senate of Dilma Rousseff coming up as well. And this corruption investigation continues. So I think I can safely make this prediction - lots of turbulent waters ahead here.
MONTAGNE: Lulu, thank you very much.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: You're welcome.
MONTAGNE: That's NPR's Lulu Garcia-Navarro speaking to us from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.