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Brazilian President Denies Wrongdoing

TIMES STAFF WRITER

President Fernando Collor de Mello, facing a congressional stampede to impeach him for dishonesty in office, denied any wrongdoing Sunday night in a televised response to what he called “calumnies, defamations and injustices” against him.

“Those who think they are going to cancel the mandate of the president of the republic are mistaken,” he said. “We will win the vote.”

Sunday newspapers, however, published tallies indicating that Collor’s opponents have the two-thirds majority needed in the lower house of Congress to impeach him. Draft articles of impeachment are slated to be submitted to the chamber Tuesday.

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Responding to pressure for his resignation, Collor said he will consider his “mission” completed only when Congress has passed a series of economic and political reform bills he has submitted. Although the statement may be taken as a sign that the president might negotiate his resignation in the future, it offered no hope to those who want him to quit now.

Alluding to the abrupt resignation 31 years ago of the late President Janio Quadros, Collor said, “Our political generation already paid an excessively high price for the resignation of 1961.” Joao Goulart, Quadros’ vice president and successor, was overthrown by a 1964 coup that resulted in 21 years of military rule.

According to press reports, some Cabinet ministers have been preparing to resign, a development that would add to pressure for Collor’s resignation. The president’s pre-taped Sunday speech appeared designed to reassure his Cabinet as well as rally support in Congress and with the public.

Collor responded to charges, made last week by a special congressional committee, linking him to a multimillion-dollar scheme of influence peddling and graft.

One charge said that Paulo Cesar Farias, Collor’s 1989 campaign treasurer and the alleged leader of the corruption scheme, paid for the remodeling of the president’s private apartment in the state of Alagoas. Collor said that Farias had sold another apartment for him and that the remodeling had been agreed to as a condition of the sale.

According to another charge, funds from more than $6 million in checks, written on accounts under false names traced to Farias, were used to pay private expenses of the president’s household and relatives. One of the “phantom” checks was used to pay for a car used by Collor, the committee said.

Collor said his former personal secretary had bought the car at his request. “I have ordered the Federal Police to open an investigation to determine responsibilities for this and all of the so-called phantom checks,” he said.

He did not respond directly to charges that he knew of influence peddling by his former campaign treasurer, but he admitted that he had committed errors.

“I erred by trusting too much in persons who later showed themselves to be unworthy of that trust,” he said. “But what I can tell you is that my conscience does not at any moment point to fraud or bad faith in the errors I committed.”


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