President Michel Temer of Brazil on Monday said he will not step down even if he is formally indicted by the Supreme Court.
Mr. Temer, facing growing calls for his resignation amid a corruption scandal, said in an interview in the Folha de S. Paulo newspaper: “I will not resign.
“Oust me if you want, but if I stepped down, I would be admitting guilt.”
Mr. Temer said the recording of his meeting with JBS chairman Joesley Batista was doctored.
Brazilians who have become inured to the massive, three-year corruption investigation, were shocked last week by the disclosure of a recording that appeared to show Mr. Temer condoning the payment of hush money to a jailed lawmaker.
The Supreme Court has opened an investigation into the revelations that were part of plea bargain testimony by the billionaire owners of meatpacking giant JBS SA.
The court is expected to decide on Wednesday whether to suspend the investigation at Mr. Temer’s request until it can be determined if the recording was manipulated to implicate him.
The scandal has threatened to tear apart Mr. Temer’s coalition in Congress and leave Latin America’s largest economy adrift as the president fights for his political survival, just a year after the impeachment of his predecessor.
Mr. Temer told the newspaper he was “absolutely” sure that he was capable of finishing his term through the end of 2018 without giving up on his legislative agenda, which includes an ambitious overhaul of the country’s labor and social security regulations.
His coalition had already been struggling to muster the votes for the unpopular social security reform.
Financial markets, which had largely anticipated approval of the reforms, slumped last week when the scandal broke.
The Brazilian real extended losses on Monday morning, weakening more than one per cent.
Yields on interest rate futures were up, indicating a deep rate cut by the central bank at the end of this month has become less likely as uncertainty grows.
“I will demonstrate political strength in coming weeks precisely by putting important bills to vote (in Congress),” Mr. Temer told Folha. “I am not doomed.”
The president, who took office a year ago after the ouster of former running mate Dilma Rousseff, has come under unrelenting pressure to step down and let Congress elect a new president for the remainder of his term.
Rede Globo, the country’s largest media conglomerate, urged Temer to resign in a newspaper editorial on Friday.
Late Saturday, the Brazilian Bar Association said it would file an impeachment motion against Temer in Congress, arguing that the recording, if proven to be accurate, showed a dereliction of presidential duties to uphold the law.
Hundreds of demonstrators marched on Sunday in cities including São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, chanting and waving banners reading “Temer Out!”
Temer said the recording was not proof of wrongdoing and he did not report the vague references to bribery of officials because he did not believe them. “Joesley is a loudmouth,” Temer said.
“I have shown, with relative success, that what that businessman did was to induce a conversation,” the president told Folha, acknowledging that he had been wrong to make no record of his meeting with the businessman in the official ledger of visitors.
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