Rousseff impeachment efforts a bid to stop oil corruption probe – leaked tapes

Secret phone recordings between Brazil's planning minister and the former president of Transperto have revealed that the minister suggested a “change” in the government to “stop the bleeding” caused by an investigation into Petrobras.

The March conversation between Planning Minister Romero Juca and former Transperto President Sergio Machado took place just weeks before impeachment proceedings were launched against Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, newspaper Folha de Sao Paulo reported.

The dialogue centered around Operation Lava Jato, a probe into allegations of corruption at the state-controlled oil company Petrobras, of which Transperto is a subsidiary. Both Machado and Juca are being investigated under the probe.

Machado mentioned a renewed drive in the investigation against Petrobras, saying that the operation was leaving “no stone unturned.”

In response, Juca said a change of government was needed to “stop the bleeding” caused by the probe.

“I think we need to articulate a political action,” Juca said, adding that a possible government with Michel Temer as president should include a national pact.

Juca's lawyer, Antonio Carlos de Almeida Castro, said his client would "never think of doing any interference" in the investigation, and that the conversation between Juca and Machado contained no illegalities.

The minister himself denied that he had discussed Rousseff's impeachment with Machado.

"I want to repeal the interpretation made by Folha de Sao Paulo ... I was speaking of putting an end to the paralysis of Brazil, of ending the 'bleeding' of unemployment, separate [politicians] who are guilty and who are not," Juca said in response to allegations, as quoted by the BBC.

The conversation took place just weeks before Rousseff was suspended from her post amid impeachment proceedings.

The leader, who is accused of illegally manipulating finances to hide a growing public deficit ahead of her 2014 re-election, was removed from office after senators voted to suspend her by 55 votes to 22 earlier this month. Her trial may last up to 180 days.

Rousseff, who denies the allegations against her, made an appeal to the Supreme Court to stop proceedings, but the move was rejected.

She told RT that the impeachment situation is a coup attempt by the old Brazilian oligarchy.

“This coup is not like usual coups in Latin America, which normally involve weapons, tanks in the streets, arrests and torture. The current coup is happening within the democratic framework, with the use of existing institutions in support of indirect elections not stipulated in the Constitution. This coup is carried out by hands tearing apart the Brazilian Constitution,” Rousseff said.

“If there is no crime, an impeachment is illegal. And since it’s illegal, it’s a serious problem for the interim government. I’m living proof of this unlawfulness and injustice,” she added.

Meanwhile, Operation Lava Jato continues, with federal authorities investigating corruption allegations at Petrobras, where it is alleged that executives accepted bribes in return for awarding contracts to construction firms at inflated prices. The operation, launched in March 2014, has resulted in more than 100 warrants for search and seizure, temporary and preventive detention, and coercive measures.