Like a political potboiler that grows more implausible with every instalment, Brazil’s political crisis risks veering out of control. An intricate story of alleged skulduggery and intrigue, involving some of the most powerful members of the country’s elite, the crisis is doing severe damage to the image of Latin America’s biggest country and holding back efforts to kickstart its halting economy.
In the eye of the storm is President Michel Temer, who replaced Dilma Rousseff after she was impeached last year and has been beset by scandal from the outset. Last week, Temer's chances of holding onto power received a boost when Brazil's electoral court narrowly and controversially voted to acquit him of charges of soliciting illegal campaign donations during the 2014 presidential election, when he ran on a ticket with Rousseff. But the court's decision was but a short-lived reprieve.
Temer is struggling to contain the fallout from a recent report that he asked his spy masters to prove some link between supreme court judge Edson Fachin and the Brazilian meat barron Joesley Batista. Batista has implicated the president in claims of corruption and obstruction of justice. Fachin is the judge handling the investigation into the affair. The highly-regarded president of the supreme court, Cármen Lúcia, has warned that any use of the secret services to spy on her court would amount to "a very grave crime".
Temer strongly denies the allegations and maintains he is the victim of a conspiracy, but on Sunday he learned that Brazil’s top federal prosecutor will file corruption charges against him as early as this week. That decision followed the emergence of footage of one of his closest aides receiving a bag with the equivalent of €135,000 in cash from one of Batista’s executives. In spite of his increasingly untenable position, Temer has managed to retain power through an aggressive fightback and his coalition allies’ decision not to pull the plug. He hopes to hold on until elections next year. But the more revelations emerge, the more forlorn that hope will be.