Michel Temer’s rocky presidency is over. While he oversaw important economic measures to curb public spending and balance the federal budget, his two-and-a-half-year term will be remembered for its corruption scandals. In 2017, he became the only sitting president in Brazilian history to face an indictment request while still in office. Thanks to his status as president, Mr. Temer could only be prosecuted if two-thirds of the lower house decided to accept the charge. With immense horse-trading efforts, the now former president dodged two indictments against him. But now, as a “regular citizen” once more, Mr. Temer will have to face the music.
There are a total of three indictment requests pending against Michel Temer (the third was submitted on December 19, just days before he left office), accusing him of corruption, criminal organization, obstruction of justice, and money laundering. He is also formally under investigation in another corruption case. For these proceedings to be assigned to trial courts, their rapporteurs at the Supreme Court (the only tribunal allowed to prosecute and trial elected federal officials) must sign an order to that effect. However, the court system is on vacation until February, which gives Mr. Temer at least one month of calm.
In 2019, Michel Temer could join a long list of politicians sent to jail after losing office—and the legal benefits that come with it. That happened with the notoriously corrupt former House Speaker Eduardo Cunha, arrested just weeks after being impeached by his peers.
Case 1: Bag of money
The first indictment against the former president was submitted in 2017 by then-Attorney General Rodrigo Janot, who accused Mr. Temer of corruption. He is suspected of being the recipient of BRL 500,000 in cash found with his former personal aide, Rodrigo Rocha Loures. The money was a bribe from the JBS meatpacking group, and the entire bag delivery scheme had been set up by the company’s executives, who were collaborating with investigators.
In a statement to the Federal Police, Mr. Temer said he had never asked nor authorized his aide to receive money on his behalf, “either as campaign donations or otherwise.”
Case 2: Obstruction of justice
In May of that year, recordings of conversations between Mr. Temer and Joesley Batista, the corrupt owner of JBS, almost imploded his administration. In the audio clips, the president and Mr. Batista discuss paying hush money to the aforementioned former House Speaker Eduardo Cunha, who was threatening to spill the beans to the authorities.
First, the Attorney General’s Office submitted an indictment against the president for obstruction of justice. Then, based on other evidence, it added items to Mr. Temer’s indictment, for allegedly running a corruption ring. The administration used its horse-trading mechanisms at will and managed to shut down the requests (which are reopened now that Mr. Temer is out of office.
Case 3: Port decree
Just days before the end of Michel Temer’s presidency, current Attorney General Raquel Dodge accused him and five of his allies of receiving unlawful benefits in exchange for the issuance of a presidential decree in favor of companies working at the Port of Santos, the largest in Latin America.
Ms. Dodge requested the president be convicted of committing passive corruption and money laundering, and that he and the other five accused parties should repay the BRL 32 million alleged to have been received as bribes. In the space of just 28 months, this was the third criminal indictment filed against Michel Temer during his term as president.
The fourth corruption investigation
Mr. Temer, alongside two cabinet members, was accused of pocketing BRL 10 million from construction group Odebrecht in 2014. The money was allegedly a kickback, for which the upper echelon of the administration would advocate for the company’s interests within the federal administration.
The former president admitted that the dinner did take place in his official residence, but denied any wrongdoing.
Michel Temer’s legacy
If the Michel Temer presidency will be remembered for one thing, it will be the constant state of crisis during his administration. To kick things off, he took office after a very controversial impeachment request that fractured the country. At first, though, the press and financial markets gave him a vote of confidence in the hopes he would bring forward pro-market reforms and recover public finances, which were depleted by years of mismanagement under Dilma Rousseff.
He had some results to show for (even if controversial ones). In 2016, he approved a ferociously pro-market labor reform, widely contested by unions but praised by members of Congress – who are in large part business owners themselves. But then came 2017.
After dealing with multiple corruption accusations, Mr. Temer became the textbook definition of a lame duck president. He himself joked about that, saying that “when your time [as president] is up, nobody knocks at your door. Even the coffee you’re served is cold.”
In a recent interview, he said: “I won’t miss anything [about being president].” It seems that he won’t be missed, either, as Mr. Temer left office as the least popular head of state in Brazilian democratic history.