RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — An ally of embattled President Dilma Rousseff on Friday filed an impeachment petition against Vice President Michel Temer, citing testimony that implicates him in the sprawling corruption scandal shaking Brazil's political class.
The move by Cid Gomes, who briefly served as education minister in Rousseff's Cabinet, comes as it appears increasingly likely that Rousseff herself will be impeached on allegations she broke fiscal laws.
If she is impeached, Vice President Temer would be first in line to replace her, although his name has been cited by several operators in the snowballing probe into corruption at the state-run oil company Petrobras. In a sign of how much Brazil's political class has been tainted by scandal, the heads of the lower house and Senate, second and third in the line of succession, are also embroiled in the scandal. They all deny wrongdoing.
Gomes told reporters his petition hinged on testimony in the Petrobras probe citing Temer, including a text message suggesting he may have received an illicit payout of $5 million Brazilian reais ($1.4 million).
"My petition is Quixotic, but I am going to fight these terrible windmills for Brazil," Folha de S. Paulo newspaper quoted Gomes as saying.
This is the fourth impeachment petition against Temer. Two have already been shelved and a third is "being processed" by the speaker of the lower house, Eduardo Cunha, a fellow member of the vice president's Brazilian Democratic Movement Party, or PMDB, according to the house's press office.
Gomes has requested his petition be examined not by Cunha — who is facing money laundering charges and could be stripped of his position by the house ethics committee — but rather by his second-in-command.
Rousseff's chances of surviving the impeachment proceedings against her took a turn for the worse earlier this week when the PMDB pulled out of Rousseff's ruling coalition. With a vote in the lower house expected as early as the middle of the month, Rousseff is scrambling to secure the 172 out of 513 votes she needs to halt the impeachment proceedings.
The latest filing against Temer comes a day after remarks by a Supreme Court justice disparaging the country's political class.
In recordings apparently made without his knowledge during a meeting Thursday with university students, Justice Luis Roberto Barroso called the situation a "disaster" and said the political system "doesn't have a minimum of democratic legitimacy," according to a report in O Globo newspaper. The court's press office declined comment Friday.
"I'd say the problem with politics at this moment is the lack of an alternative," he said, in an apparent reference to the PMDB party. "There is nowhere to run."
The justice's apparently off-the-cuff remarks seemed to echo the sentiment of many Brazilians who are fed up with Rousseff and her left-leaning Workers' Party, which has governed the country since 2003, but don't see the scandal-tainted opposition as an appealing alternative.
Meanwhile, police on Friday carried out more detentions and searches in the "Operation Car Wash" probe that began over two years ago and centers around a massive corruption scheme at Petrobras. The former secretary general of Rousseff's left-leaning party, Silvio Jose Pereira, was one of two people provisionally detained in Friday's operation, which also saw the party's former treasurer, Delubio Soares, hauled in for questioning.
Petrobras and another top Brazilian company also ensnared in the "Car Wash" investigation, builder Odebrecht, announced Friday they plan to cut billions of dollars in costs or sell off assets.
Petrobras said in a statement that it has approved a voluntary layoff program to reduce its workforce by about 12,000 and save 33 billion Brazilian reais (about $9.20 billion) by 2020.
And in an interview published in Folha de S. Paulo newspaper, Odebrecht's president said the construction company has put assets up for sale to raise R$12 billion (US$ 3.3 billion). Newton de Souza told the newspaper the company plans to sell a hydroelectric power plant and a road concession in Peru and a stake in a petroleum block in Angola.