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    Brazil's MST landless workers' movement protest against interim President Michel Temer and in support of Dilma Rousseff in Sao Paulo, May 22, 2016. | Photo: Reuters

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The taped conversation is the strongest proof to date that Dilma Rousseff's rivals' bid to remove her from office is more about protecting corruption than rooting it out.

Damning new evidence has revealed that the impeachment bid against Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff has a clear goal of protecting corrupt officials, particularly members of the newly installed government, from facing justice.

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In leaked recordings reported by the Brazilian daily Folha de Sao Paulo on Monday, interim Planning and Development Minister Romero Juca is caught on tape just weeks before the vote on Rousseff’s fate in the lower house of Congress saying that removing her from office would be the way to “find a way out” and “stop the bleeding” of the corruption investigations known as Operation Car Wash centered around the state-run Petrobras oil company scandal.

The secretly taped conversation details how Juca, a senator and head of coup-imposed interim President Michel Temer’s PMDB party, schemed with Sergio Machado, former president of a Petrobras subsidiary, about how they could put a stop to the Supreme Court’s investigations — something they were both eager to do as targets of the Operation Car Wash probe into bribery and money laundering.

“We have to stop this shit,” Juca says to Machado after they both argue that there should be an impeachment. “We have to change the government to be able to stop this bleeding.”

“Man, the easiest solution is to put in Michel [Temer],” Machado responds, going on to say that chief prosecutor Rodrigo Janot is “going after” Juca and that he himself could be next.

In a later segment, Juca says he has already spoken to members of the Supreme Court and military commanders, adding serious weight to the suspended government's claims that the impeachment process has constituted a coup against Rousseff and against democracy. Juca adds that the investigations “will never stop” with Rousseff in power and says that what’s needed is “a deal.”

Juca told Folha on Monday that he will not resign over the leaked recording, but by Monday evening AFP reported that Juca would "step aside starting Tuesday."

According to Folha, Machado was the PMDB’s handpicked person to head Transpetro, a subsidiary of Petrobras. He is now facing investigation as part of Operation Car Wash alongside senate chief Renan Calheiros, another member of the PMDB. Juca faces investigations over accusations of receiving millions of dollars in bribes within the same scandal.

A total of seven members of Temer’s new neoliberal, all-white male cabinet are under investigation through Operation Car Wash. The Senate-imposed president also faces accusations of bribery.

Rousseff’s political rivals have capitalized on popular anti-corruption sentiments and sold the impeachment bid as a campaign against government fraud. But the rampant corruption in the ranks of her opponents has laid bare the fact that removing her from office is more about protecting corrupt officials from prosecution and imposing a conservative policy agenda that the majority of Brazilians would not support in an election.

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The suspended president is accused of manipulating budget accounts, an act that many analysts argue is not an impeachable offense. She is not accused of any financial impropriety. Temer, on the other hand, is embroiled in corruption and barred from running for public office for eight years. Polls have showed that he has dismal approval ratings and that a majority of Brazilians would like to see him impeached.

Several of Temer’s allies, including members of his cabinet and Eduardo Cunha, the former speaker of the lower house who spearheaded the impeachment attempt, are also accused of being involved in fraud schemes for personal enrichment.

The leaked conversation between Juca and Machado is by far the clearest evidence to date that putting a stop to prosecution of corrupt officials has been a key motivation behind the impeachment process.

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