A Supreme Court justice dealt President Michel Temer and Brazil’s political elite a heavy blow on Tuesday by ordering investigations into eight cabinet ministers and dozens of lawmakers allegedly linked to the country’s biggest corruption scandal.
The list of names under investigation released by Justice Edson Fachin read like a Who’s Who of Brazilian politics, tarnishing past statesmen and potential presidential candidates alike.
The list, whose contents had been subject to furious speculation and a number of leaks, became public when Fachin lifted the seal on plea bargain testimony from 77 employees of construction company Odebrecht, which has admitted paying millions of dollars in bribes.
In Sao Paulo, residents banged pots and pans in protest against political corruption, while in the capital Brasilia, deputies left a session in the lower house earlier in the day as news of the list began to break.
The investigation into eight ministers, or nearly a third of the president’s cabinet, poses a serious threat to Temer’s efforts to pass austerity reforms that he says are needed to regain investor confidence and lift the economy out of its worst recession on record.
Temer’s office declined to comment.
“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.
Among that core is Temer’s chief of staff Eliseu Padilha, an experienced politician considered key in negotiations with Congress to pass the administration’s crucial pension reform.
Padilha said he will defend himself in court.