Political crisis in Brazil threatens to topple the president, further destabilize the nation

Brazil’s escalating political crisis — compounded by mounting economic woes and new allegations of corruption — is already threatening to end the young presidency of Michel Temer and destabilize Latin America’s largest nation.

“It’s a major crisis of leadership,” said Paulo Sotero, director of the Washington-based Brazil Institute at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. “Most think Temer has really lost. The political battle is a really difficult one for him. He’s an unpopular president.”

The latest allegations of impropriety involve claims that Temer endorsed the payment of money to a former senator to “stay quiet” while in jail, according to media accounts. The prominent newspaper O Globo published reports this week of a secret recording of the president authorizing the bribe.

Temer, the former vice president, assumed the presidency in September after the impeachment of Dilma Rousseff. He has denied wrongdoing and vowed to fight to prove his innocence. But on Friday Brazil’s Supreme Court released explosive plea-bargain testimony accusing Temer, along with former presidents Rousseff and Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, of receiving millions in bribes, Reuters reported.

Protests swept several Brazilian cities following reports of the Temer recording , and opposition leaders called for his resignation or impeachment.