By Paulo Trevisani
BRASÍLIA -- Under pressure from an angry public fed up with corruption, Brazil's President Michel Temer on Sunday vowed to derail efforts by the nation's lawmakers to try to shield themselves from prosecution in an epic graft probe that has rocked the country.
Brazil's congress is set this week to vote on legislation that critics say could grant amnesty to politicians who had taken campaign contributions from an illegal slush fund made up of money stolen from the state oil company.
That possibility caused a public outcry after prosecutors had warned that lawmakers could pass legislation weakening the nation's biggest-ever corruption investigation.
In a rare Sunday workday for top officials, Mr. Temer convened a press conference to announce that he would veto any effort by politicians to grant themselves amnesty.
"We've talked a lot in the past few days and realized we needed to heed public opinion," Mr. Temer said. "It would be impossible for the president to sanction any such legislation."
Speaking at the presidential palace, Mr. Temer was flanked by Senate President Renan Calheiros and House Speaker Rodrigo Maia.
Mr. Temer's efforts come following a fresh scandal that threatens to upend his fledgling administration. His former culture minister this month accused the president of pressuring him to overlook a historical-preservation law that had stalled a luxury real-estate development in the northeastern city of Salvador. A key aide to Mr. Temer owned an apartment in the project and wanted the construction resumed.
The aide, Geddel Vieira, resigned on Friday, after days in which the scandal boiled over and his permanence in the cabinet became a liability for the administration. Mr. Vieira and Mr. Temer have both denied wrongdoing.
Opposition parties seized on allegations that Mr. Temer used his position as president to assist Mr. Vieira with a private real estate transaction to call for the president's impeachment.
Veteran political analysts say that is an unlikely outcome given that Mr. Temer has strong support in Congress.
Still, the president is deeply disliked by the Brazilian public, with an approval rating hovering around 14%. And the uproar comes at a sensitive time for Mr. Temer, who is trying to pass unpopular austerity measures needed to close a yawning budget deficit that has reached 10% of GDP.
Mr. Vieira was a skilled negotiator who enjoyed good relationships with many lawmakers across party lines. He was seen as key to get Congress to approve a spending-cap measure at the heartof Mr. Temer's fiscal-austerity plans. The two final votes on the spending cap are scheduled for next Tuesday and December 13. The president said he still doesn't have a replacement for his top negotiator.
Write to Paulo Trevisani at firstname.lastname@example.org
(END) Dow Jones Newswires
November 27, 2016 13:53 ET (18:53 GMT)
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