SAO PAULO – The union representing Brazil's federal police investigators expressed concerns Monday about how probes into government corruption will be handled by the newly named justice minister, who is a personal friend of President Michel Temer.
Torquato Jardim, who will oversee the investigators and other members of the federal police department, in the past has criticized the "Car Wash" corruption probe that has now spread to include alleged bribes by a construction company of politicians around Latin America.
Jardim was appointed to the post on Sunday by Temer, who himself is under investigation for alleged obstruction of justice and corruption. The unpopular president has seen his support in Congress shrink amid growing pressures for him to step down. He denies any wrongdoing and has said he won't resign.
The union of federal police investigators said in a statement Sunday night that members had no idea the appointment of Jardim was coming. It added that the change in justice ministers "brings concerns and uncertainty over the possibility of interference in the work performed by the federal police."
Jardim is Brazil's third justice minister in about a year. He has criticized federal police investigations, raids and strategies in the recent past.
He replaced Osmar Serraglio, who was also criticized in the past by the police investigators union. There were reports Serraglio would take over Jardim's previous position as transparency minister, but Temer had not confirmed that. Employees in several offices of the Transparency Ministry put up signs and banners protesting Serraglio getting that post.
Serraglio had been under pressure to resign as justice minister after he was linked to a corruption investigation in the meat business, but he stayed on the job until Temer decided to bring Jardim in. The president did not explain why he made the change.
Until a few years ago, Jardim was a member of Brazil's top electoral court, which on June 6 will launch a trial that could remove Temer from office on charges of illegal campaign financing as well as strip impeached former President Dilma Rousseff of her right to run for office for up to eight years.
Supreme Court Justice Gilmar Mendes, who serves as chairman of the seven-judge electoral court, said Monday that it's not up to the judges to resolve Brazil's political crisis.
"The trial will be on legal issues," said Mendes, who has also been Temer's personal friend for decades. The justice also said it wouldn't be surprising if one of the members of the court decided to review the case, which would stop the sessions for an undefined amount of time.
Mendes defended Temer's choice of Jardim for the Cabinet position, saying after an event in Sao Paulo that "he is very respected and he will certainly do his job very well."
The political uncertainty has worsened projections for the Brazilian economy, which is mired in its worst recession in decades. A report by the country's central bank showed pessimism on several different fronts, including growth, inflation and exchange rates.