Brazil’s interim government has been rattled by a leaked audio tape suggesting a plot against suspended President Dilma Rousseff, a scandal that forced a key minister in the new cabinet to resign.
Brazilian Planning Minister Romero Juca, a close ally of acting President Michel Temer, said Monday he is stepping down.
The decision came a day after a Brazilian newspaper published the transcript of a secretly-taped conversation between him and Sérgio Machado, a former senator.
Juca was caught on the tape saying Rousseff needed to be removed in an attempt to quash a vast corruption investigation that implicated him and other politicians, in what analysts call a first major political blow to the acting administration.
“We have to change the government to be able to stop this bleeding,” he was reportedly recorded saying.
Juca admitted earlier in the day that one of the two voices heard on the tape was his, but said his comments have been misinterpreted and taken out of context.
Later in the conversation, Juca says he talked about his plans to Supreme Court justices, who told him the corruption investigation and its media coverage would never come to an end as long as Rousseff remained in power.
The tape was recorded just weeks before the lower house of parliament voted to impeach Rousseff, according to the Folha de Sao Paulo newspaper, which published chunks of a 75-minute conversation on Monday.
The impeachment bid was launched over allegations that the president manipulated government accounts before the last election. Rousseff, however, has denied the allegations.
Earlier this month, Brazil’s upper chamber of the National Congress voted to suspend Rousseff and begin an impeachment trial against her. Acting President Michel Temer stepped up from the post of vice-president and replaced her.
Reacting to the leaks, Rousseff said the tape proves that she has been a victim of a “political coup d’état.”
“This only confirms what we have been talking about for some time: it confirms the coup against Dilma,” said Paulo Rocha, the Senate leader for the Workers’ Party of Rousseff.
Ever since her suspension, the Latin American country has been the scene of nationwide demonstrations.
On Friday protesters took to the streets of Sao Paulo, calling for the resignation of Temer. They held banners and chanted slogans to support Rousseff.