Brazilians urge President Temer to step down

Brazil's President Michel Temer is teetering in the wake of corruption allegations, with many asking whether he can survive.

On Thursday, Temer vowed that he "will not step down" and that he "did not buy the silence of anyone".

"I never authorized payments to anyone to stay quiet", he said during a nationally televised address Thursday.

"I will not resign", he said.

When the news broke on Wednesday evening, opponents started to call for Temer's resignation or impeachment, Xinhua reported.

A former executive of construction company Odebrecht said in his plea bargain that President Temer led a meeting in São Paulo in which he made arrangements for the payment of US$ 40 million in bribes while he was still a vice president candidate in 2010.

The ongoing scandal deepened at dawn on Thursday as police searched the Rio de Janeiro home and Brasilia office of Senator Aecio Neves, who almost won the presidency in 2014 and planned to run again next year. All three have denied wrongdoing.

The country's Bovespa stock index fell in Sao Paulo trading by about 10.5%, forcing a temporary trade stop for stocks.

The U.S. currency on Thursday gained 8.06 percent against the Brazilian real, which posted the highest losses since the country devalued its currency in 1999. Both chambers of Congress cancelled sessions and Mr Temer's office axed his planned activities.

According to O Globo newspaper, Temer was recorded in a conversation with Joesley Batista, chairman of meat company JBS SA, who then presented the recording to the court. The Brazilian media, such as newspaper O Globo, have reported on recordings of Temer offering hush money to former top lawmaker Eduardo Cunha.

Temer believes an investigation into whether he condoned hush money should be shelved after he listened to the recording that triggered a political crisis in Brasilia, a presidential aide told Reuters.

If confirmed, the allegations could prove devastating for Mr Temer, whose administration has lurched from one crisis to another since he took office just over a year ago.

Despite all the calls for his head, the veteran center-right politician - who took over past year after the impeachment of leftist president Dilma Rousseff - came out swinging.

It is possible Cunha, who is serving a 15-year prison sentence, could reach a plea deal with authorities for a lesser sentence if he turns over information.

Janot also alleges Temer (who heads the Brazilian Democratic Movement party) and Aécio (the head of the Social Democratic Party of Brazil) tried to use laws and appointments to disrupt the investigation.

Mr Temer responds: "You have to keep that up, see?" to which Mr Batista says: "Every month".

Globo did not release the recordings or say how they were obtained.

One man, apparently Temer, complains that Cunha could potentially embarrass him. However, they appear to have had a falling out during a growing investigation into corruption involving the state oil giant Petrobras.

If Temer is eventually forced to resign or is impeached, Brazil's constitution calls for the leader of the lower house to temporarily take over and for Congress to name a successor within 30 days.

If at least two-thirds of the members of the lower house voted in favour, the case would be sent back to the top court, which would then decide whether to put Mr Temer on trial.

  • Leroy Wright