Courts to Investigate Three Former Presidents in Brazil

The respected Estadao newspaper reported on its website that it had obtained exclusive access to the full list of politicians who have been targeted by Prosecutor General Rodrigo Janot.

Eight ministers - which represents almost one third of the president's cabinet - 29 senators of the 81 in the Senate, 40 lawmakers out of the 513 from the lower house, twelve governors and five former presidents have been accused of being part of the scheme around bribery in the state-run oil company Petrobras.

Most politicians named in the inquiries declined immediate comment or protested their innocence.

But speculation is mounting over the fallout facing Mr Temer's center-right government.

It also throws into doubt the credibility of a number of potential presidential candidates for elections in 2018, with some of the most commonly mentioned names under investigation.

Described by the US Department of Justice as running an "unparalleled bribery and bid-rigging scheme", Odebrecht has entered into a plea bargain with regulators in which 77 executives including its former head, Marcelo Odebrecht, have agreed to provide information to prosecutors in exchange for leniency.

"This episode came at a very important juncture for the Temer government - exactly when it is trying (desperately) to approve important reforms in Congress - social security reform, labour legislation reform and a "timid" tax reform, in addition to political reform", said David Fleischer, political scientist at Brasília University, in a note.

"More than having eight ministers on the list, the biggest problem for the government is seeing its whole political nucleus there", said Danilo Gennari, partner with Brasilia-based consultancy Distrito Relações Governamentais, referring to the implication of key government allies.

Local media have reported the testimony accuses dozens of politicians of taking bribes to help what was once Latin America's biggest builder win multi-million-dollar contracts with state-run oil company Petrobras.

The empty chambers symbolized the problems that Temer may now have in maintaining his close working relationship with Congress as he tries to enact pension reform and other austerity measures aimed at dragging Brazil out of a historic recession.

But also targeted, according to the report, is Aecio Neves, who heads the centrist PSDB party and narrowly lost Brazil's last presidential election.

Temer has vowed to suspend ministers who are charged and dismiss any if indicted.

Under Brazilian law, politicians can only be tried by the Supreme Court.

Temer's ministers of foreign affairs, trade and agriculture also are under investigation, as well as former presidents Fernando Henrique Cardoso, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and Dilma Rousseff.

  • Lila Blake