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Brazil minister quits in case implicating president

Published:Sunday | November 27, 2016 | 12:00 AM

A Brazilian minister resigned on Friday amid allegations that he enlisted President Michel Temer's help to pressure a

fellow Cabinet member to approve a luxury apartment development project in a preservation zone. It is the first direct accusation of wrongdoing against Temer while in office.

The announcement feeds a growing scandal over alleged misuse of power that threatens Temer's presidency only six months after he replaced a predecessor ousted from office by Congress - and at a time corruption investigations have tarred many senior politicians.

At least one opposition party says it will submit a motion to impeach the new president and many more could follow.

Temer, who is deeply unpopular with many Brazilians, has been struggling to push through an ambitious austerity agenda he says will pull Latin America's largest economy out of its worst recession in decades. Since May, his administration has lurched from one scandal to the next, but until now, none had directly implicated the president.

Temer's administration "just turned six months and it already looks old," Fabio Zanini, political editor of the daily newspaper Folha de S. Paulo, wrote on Friday. "The strategy to win popular legitimacy with an economic recovery and political stability is quickly sinking for a president who was not supported by the popular vote."

The latest crisis started when former Culture Minister Marcelo Calero told federal police that Temer's legislative affairs minister, Geddel Vieira Lima, pressured him to allow construction of a luxury building in a historic preservation area in the city of Salvador, 1,000 miles (1,600 kilometres) northwest of Rio de Janeiro. Lima had bought a unit in the planned development.

Calero, who resigned last week, testified that Temer himself suggested that he use a method to avoid the normal oversight process for such a building.

Calero said Temer invited him to the presidential palace last week to suggest "a way out", indicating that the building restrictions had created "operational difficulties" in his administration, according to Calero's testimony.

"Politics has these things, that kind of pressure," Temer said, according with Calero.

Temer's spokesman said Thursday night that the president simply intervened to arbitrate a dispute between Cabinet members.