RIO DE JANEIRO, May 21 (Reuters) - Demonstrators gathered across Brazil on Sunday to call for the resignation or ouster of President Michel Temer who is implicated in a widening corruption scandal that is undermining his government’s fragile efforts to end a historic recession.
Scattered demonstrations took place in cities including São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, where hundreds of demonstrators marched along the shoreline, chanting and waving banners reading “Temer Out!”
The protests were small, however, compared with massive marches in recent years as fortunes flagged in Latin America’s biggest country, including 2016 demonstrations that built support for the impeachment of Dilma Rousseff, Temer’s leftist predecessor.
Brazilians were shocked by a recording disclosed last week that appeared to show Temer condoning the payment of hush money to a lawmaker jailed in a corruption probe that has ensnared dozens of politicians and executives in the last three years.
The revelations eroded what appeared to have been sufficient political support for Temer’s measures to spur economic recovery, including overhauls to Brazil’s labor and social security regulations.
“This could keep costing Brazil the stability and reforms it needs to encourage investment and growth,” said Carlos Melo, a political scientist at Insper, a São Paulo business school, noting the massive selloff of Brazilian assets in stock and currency markets last week.
“Confidence comes with expectations of progress,” he added. “That is something that is quickly vanishing because Temer has lost at least the appearance of being beyond the scandals.”
Temer on Saturday sought to reassure Brazilians with a fierce denial that he had condoned or committed any crimes.
Instead, he accused Joesley Batista, chairman of meatpacking giant JBS SA of manipulating a recorded conversation with Temer that is central to a plea agreement between prosecutors and JBS executives over illegal payments to politicians including the president and his two predecessors.
But few in Brazil appeared reassured, with one allied political party saying on Saturday that it would no longer support Temer’s conservative government and another saying it would consider doing the same.
Late Saturday, the Brazilian Bar Association, known as the OAB, said it would join the ranks of those filing impeachment motions against Temer in Congress, arguing that the recording, if proven to be accurate, showed a dereliction of presidential duties to uphold the law.
“There is a legal duty to act in accordance with the office,” wrote Flávio Pansieri, one of the association’s lawyers in a statement.
Reporting by Paulo Prada; Editing by Andrew Hay