Bolsonaro tight-lipped as minister faces calls to resign over Lula scandal

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Srgio Moro, who jailed Bolsonaros top rival, Lula, before Brazil election, accused of totally inappropriate links with prosecutors

Brazils justice minister is facing growing calls to resign after a series of politically explosive leaks that some observers believe could have a profound effect on Brazilian politics and the administration of the far-right president, Jair Bolsonaro.

Srgio Moro became an A-list celebrity in Brazil for leading the historic Car Wash anti-corruption investigation.

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He controversially took his job last year after helping jail Bolsonaros key election rival, former president Luiz Incio Lula da Silva, and has been widely tipped as a future president himself.

But Moros political future was thrown into doubt on Sunday after the Intercept began publishing a series of exposs based on what it called a vast trove of secret documents provided by an anonymous source.

The Intercept said its Secret Brazil Archive reports which contained compromising excerpts from mobile phone chats between Moro and Car Wash prosecutors showed he had engaged in improper and unethical plotting designed to ensure Lulas imprisonment.

Lula was prevented from taking part in last years presidential election which polls suggested he would have won after being convicted of bribe taking and corruption by Moro in 2017. He is currently serving an almost nine-year sentence in southern Brazil.

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Moro has rejected accusations of wrongdoing as sensationalist smears and his supporters branded the leaks a criminal conspiracy designed to undermine the former judge and Bolsonaros administration.

But on Tuesday as Brazilian politicians braced for further revelations promised by the Intercept – there were calls for Moros removal.

Moro has to go, said Guilherme Boulos, a left-wing leader some see as a potential heir to Lula.

There is now compelling evidence of his involvement in illegal and unethical practices Moro no longer has the political or moral capacity to run the justice ministry.

The conservative Estado de So Paulo newspaper said it believed Moro should resign.

The Intercepts leaks revealed a totally inappropriate and possibly illegal relationship between Moro and prosecutors with legal and political implications that are still hard to gauge, the newspaper said in a scathing editorial.

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Other ministers have been sacked for far less, it pointed out.

Jos Roberto de Toledo, a political journalist from the magazine Piau, said he did not believe Bolsonaro would immediately dismiss his minister.

But Moros image has been damaged and Bolsonaro is clearly on the defensive, not wanting to tie himself too closely to Moro because of the chance he might have to sack him, Toledo said, pointing to Bolsonaros failure to personally defend Moro.

So far, Bolsonaros only public statement of support has come through a spokesperson who insisted Moro enjoyed the presidents complete trust.

I dont think he will fire him today, Toledo said. [But] until Sunday night if someone had said: Bolsonaro might sack Moro, youd have said: Youre mad youre delusional. Today its a possibility not a huge possibility but a possibility.

Eliane Cantanhde, a political columnist for the Estado de So Paulo, said Moro was likely to survive the Intercepts disclosures thanks to his hero status among many Brazilians.

Despite being detested by the left Moro went down in history and became internationally known for running the greatest anti-corruption investigation in the world. He has immense popular support.

Does it look good for Moro? No it doesnt But is it enough to destroy his public image? I dont think so, she said.

But Cantanhde sensed nervousness and caution in the capital, Braslia, that the Intercept might have a bomb up its sleeve. Nobody wants to defend Moro only for more things to come out.

Brian Winter, the editor-in-chief of Americas Quarterly, said it was possible the leaks could lead to Lulas release.

For this kind of conduct to have been revealed is at the very least devastating for the image of the Car Wash probe and it could also result in the nullification of the case against Lula, saidWinter, who knows Moro and expressed concern over his decision to take a job in Bolsonaros government last year.

The shockwaves would also be felt across the region, in countries such as Peru and Argentina where major corruption investigations linked to Car Wash are playing out.

People in the anti-corruption community around Latin America were furious with Srgio Moro when he accepted this job last year [because of the appearance of political impropriety] and they are 10 times as angry now because it affects their work, Winter said. It allows the corrupt to say: I am being unfairly targeted too.

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