May 18 (UPI) — Brazilian President Michel Temer denied a report alleging he endorsed payments to silence jailed politician Eduardo Cuhna as a potential witness in a corruption investigation.
Jornal O Globo reported it obtained recordings of a conversation between Temer and a food company business leader, who recorded the discussion secretly, in which Temer endorsed the executive’s hush money payments to Cuhna.
Cuhna was sentenced to 15 years in prison in March after being found guilty of accepting more than $1.5 million in bribes.
The newspaper, one of Brazil’s largest, said the tapes were presented by brothers Joesley and Wesley Batista, who control the family-owned meat company JBS, as part of a plea bargain with prosecutors related to the massive Petrobras corruption scandal.
Jornal O Globo said Joesley Batista visited Temer at his official residence in Brasília on March 7 while carrying a hidden recording device.
In the recording, Joesley Batista said he was paying Cuhna money to keep silent and Temer said he would have to keep up those payments, the newspaper said.
Temer’s office said the meeting in March occurred but called the allegations false.
A statement by Temer’s office said he would be “going to fight” and that he would give “no thought” to resignation.
“The president wants to see the tape of his conversation with Joesley,” the statement said. “President Michel Temer has never requested payments to obtain the silence of …. Eduardo Cunha. He did not participate in, nor did he authorize, any movement with an aim to avoid that the former congressman make a plea bargain deal or cooperate with justice.”
Members of Brazil’s Congress have called on Temer to resign. The newspaper’s report led to immediate protests against Temer in Sao Paolo and Rio de Janeiro, also calling for his resignation.
Ronaldo Caiado, a senator for the Goiás state, said Brazil must hold early presidential and congressional elections following the report.
“Given the gravity of the situation and with the responsibility of not letting Brazil immerse itself in the imponderable, we have only the resignation of President Michel Temer and a change in the Constitution,” Caiado said late Wednesday.
Though nearly a third of Temer’s Cabinet is under investigation for alleged corruption. Jornal O Globo’s report is the first time he is directly implicated in illicit activity.