- Top Story
- or Log in
Just 18 days after being installed as part of the new cabinet, Fabiano Silveira became the second minister to lose his post as a result of leaked tapes suggesting there is a coordinated, high-level campaign to quash the Lava Jato (car wash) investigation into a kickback scandal involving the state-run oil company Petrobras and dozens of politicians.
The resignation of Silveira – who held the portfolio of “transparency, monitoring and control” – increases the pressure on the administration of Michel Temer, which is struggling to shake off allegations that it seized control from suspended president Dilma Rousseff in order to stifle the biggest corruption probe in the country’s history.
Silveira’s portfolio put him in a key position in the anti-graft drive but his suitability for the job was called into question by the recording of his conversation in February with the head of the Senate, Renan Calheiros, whom prosecutors accuse of receiving massive kickbacks. In the audio Silveira criticises the Lava Jato operation and offers advice on a defence strategy against it.
The broadcast of the audio by TV Globo’s flagship investigations program Fantastico on Sunday made the minister’s position untenable. Dozens of civil servants occupied his office on Monday morning. Hundreds of others held a rally outside the presidential place. The Berlin-based watchdog Transparency International said it would halt dialogue with Temer’s administration “until a full investigation is conducted and a new minister with adequate experience in the fight against corruption is appointed”.
Brazil’s most popular newspaper, O Globo, also printed an editorial calling for Temer to sack the minister and protect the Lava Jato probe. “It is the only way that his public commitment to support the operation and to fight against corruption will be taken seriously,” it noted.
Questions about the interim president himself remain. Temer has not been charged, but has been named by Lava Jato plea bargain witnesses as a “godfather” figure in the appointment of senior executives at the tainted oil company. His all-male, all-white interim cabinet included seven ministers accused of accepting bribes in the scandal.
Last week one of the interim president’s key allies, Romero Juca, was forced to take indefinite leave from his influential post as planning minister after taped phone calls revealed him plotting to impeach Rousseff to stem the “bleeding” from the Lava Jato investigation.
Barely two weeks into office, Temer is struggling to restore his credibility. Hopes that his ascension to power would provide at least a short-term boost to the economy have been belied by a decline in the main Bovispa stock market index and a weakening of the currency against the US dollar.
The stand-in president was also forced into a U-turn on his downgrade of the culture ministry after protests by grammy-winning musician Caetano Veloso and other artists.