Brazil's planning minister steps aside after recordings revelation

Updated: 2016-05-24 09:43


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Brazil's planning minister steps aside after recordings revelation

Brazil's Planning Minister Romero Juca attends a news conference in Brasilia, Brazil, May 20, 2016. [Photo/Agencies] 

BRASILIA - Brazil's Planning Minister Romero Juca said on Monday that he would temporarily step down after phone recordings leaked out suggesting he tried to obstruct the Petrobras corruption investigation.

"Beginning from tomorrow, I will step aside," Juca told a news conference hours after newspaper Folha de S. Paulo published recorded comments he made before President Dilma Rousseff was suspended.

The transcript, lasting one hour and 15 minutes, was recorded in March and made secretly by Brazil's prosecutor general, the report said.

Juca is the main architect in the Senate of the suspension of Rousseff and one of the leaders of the interim government of Michel Temer.

In the leak, Juca was heard talking with Sergio Machado, the former president of public oil company, Transpetro, about how the impeachment of Rousseff could help to contain the corruption investigation into Petrobras, known as Operation Lava Jato.

Asked for help by a former senator under investigation in the probe, Juca replied "we have to change the government to stop this bloodshed."

Juca denied he was trying to interfere with the investigation and said what was published was taken out of context.

The president of Temer's Brazilian Democratic Movement Party was also heard saying that the rise of Temer would be a "solution" to all the problems facing the party.

Brazil's Senate voted earlier this month to bring impeachment proceedings against Rousseff, suspending her from office for up to 180 days, and making her vice president, Temer, the interim president. If Rousseff is found guilty, Temer will see through the remainder of her term.

Former Brazilian Interior Minister Ricardo Berzoini said the leaked recordings showed that the impeachment of Rousseff was politically motivated.

In a video published on Rousseff's Facebook page, Berzoni said the recording was a "scandal" and called for an immediate investigation, as well as for Juca to be fired.

"The revelation of these conversations show the real reason of the coup against democracy and the legitimate mandate of Dilma Rousseff. The objective was to halt Operation Lava Jato and to hide the truth," said Berzoini.

"This dialogue leaves no doubt, as it shows a minister of the coup speaking with a person who is being investigated about halting the investigation," he added.