(Adds analyst quote, further names)
By Ricardo Brito and Lisandra Paraguassu
BRASILIA, April 11 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
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.
RISK OF INSTITUTIONAL PARALYSIS
Temer's ministers of foreign affairs, trade and agriculture
also are under investigation, as well as the heads of both
houses of Brazil's Congress and former presidents Fernando
Henrique Cardoso, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and Dilma Rousseff.
"The political crisis will deepen and we risk an
institutional paralysis because the entire Brazilian political
system is under question," opposition senator Jorge Viana, who
is under investigation himself, said in a statement.
It also throws into doubt the credibility of a number of
potential presidential candidates for elections in 2018, with
some of the most commonly mentioned names under investigation.
PSDB party leader Aecio Neves and former Foreign Minister Jose
Serra are cited on Fachin's list, with a possible investigation
of Sao Paulo Governor Geraldo Alckmin referred to a lower court.
Temer has vowed to suspend ministers who are charged and
dismiss any if indicted.
Aides close to Temer have told Reuters that it could take
months for ministers to be charged, meaning Padilha and other
key cabinet members likely will stay in their posts long enough
to secure the pension reform's passage.
Tuesday's decision to make public the names targeted in the
investigation goes back to March, when Brazil's top public
prosecutor asked the Supreme Court to open 83 investigations
into senior politicians based on the Odebrecht employees'
Local media have reported the testimony accuses dozens of
politicians of taking bribes to help what was once Latin
America's biggest builder win lucrative contracts with state-run
oil company Petrobras.
Rodrigo Maia, the head of the Chamber of Deputies, said his
innocence will be proved during the investigation. Other
politicians also insisted they were innocent and discredited the
(Reporting by Ricardo Brito, writing by Alonso Soto and Stephen
Eisenhammer; Editing by Daniel Flynn, G Crosse and Bill Trott)