Brasilia: The government of Brazil's interim president Michel Temer has taken a fresh hit when the anti-corruption minister resigned after a recording revealed him criticising a probe into graft at state oil giant Petrobras.
Fabiano Silveira was the second minister to exit in the span of a week from Temer's government, which has only been in power for 18 days following the suspension of Dilma Rousseff for an impeachment trial.
In audio released by Globo television last night, Silveira was heard talking to Senate President Renan Calheiros and Sergio Machado, the president of Petrobras subsidiary Transpetro, both of whom are being investigated in the embezzlement probe.
In the recording, Silveira was heard saying that the prosecution in the case was "lost" and gave advice to Machado on how to protect himself from the investigation. The recording was made in March when Silveira was serving on the National Council of Justice.
Brazilian media said Machado recorded the conversation, trading the information for leniency from prosecution.
The presidential palace's media office confirmed Silveira's resignation.
In his resignation letter, excerpts of which were published by Brazilian media, Silveira defended himself and said his remarks were "generic comments and simple opinion, amplified by the climate of political exasperation to which we all bear witness."
Yesterday, officials from the Transparency Ministry, created by Temer to fight rampant corruption in Brazil, staged protests to call for Silveira's ouster.
Corruption watchdog Transparency International also called for Silveira to step down.
His exit comes about one week after a main Temer ally, Romero Juca, was fired from his planning minister post after another leaked recording in which he apparently discussed using Rousseff's impeachment as a way to derail the Petrobras probe.
The probe, codenamed Operation Car Wash, has seen investigations and prosecutions opened against dozens of politicians and executives including Juca. Temer, who was vice president and took over from Rousseff after her suspension for an impeachment trial on May 12, is trying to push through economic reforms to pull Brazil out of deep recession.