Brazil Senate kicks off crucial debate to impeach President Dilma Rousseff

May 11, 2016 9:30 pm

The photo shows the view of a plenary session of the Brazilian Senate in Brasilia on May 9, 2016. (AFP)

’s Senate has kicked off a crucial debate session to impeach incumbent President based on allegations that she manipulated fiscal rules in the run-up to her 2014 re-election.
The debate, followed by a vote, is not expected to be concluded until late on Wednesday or the early hours of Thursday.
If the country’s 81-member chamber votes against Rousseff as expected, the leftist leader will be suspended from office and Vice President Michel Temer will take over for up to six months pending a decision on whether to remove her from office permanently.
A simple majority would be enough to trigger Rousseff’s six-month suspension pending judgment. However, a two-thirds majority would force her from office permanently and could bring down the curtain on 13 years of leftist rule in ’s biggest country.
Senate President Renan Calheiros, who is overseeing the proceedings, said during a recent press briefing that impeachment would be “traumatic” for Brazil, adding, “The process of impeachment… is long, traumatic and does not produce quick results.”
Reacting to the developments, Paulo Paim, a senator of Rousseff’s ruling Workers’ Party, admitted that the president has no chance of surviving the vote. “There won’t be any miracle. She’ll be suspended for six months and then we’ll open the debate on the merits” of the case, Paim said.
Opposition lawmakers say impeachment was needed to heal Brazil’s sick economy.
“As soon as we vote for impeachment, the dollar will fall (strengthening Brazil’s currency), our stock market will rise and the patient will breathe again,” said Magno Malta, an opposition senator. “The doctor will say the patient is showing signs of life and is in intensive care.”
Ahead of the vote, Rousseff asked the Supreme Court to block proceedings against her, citing irregularities.
During a recent defiant address to a women’s forum in Brasilia, President Rousseff vowed to stay in office until her term formally expires in 2018. Rousseff has promised to fight the impeachment process against her both through legal means and a struggle in the streets.

(C) gestures during the opening ceremony of the 4th National Policy Conference on Women in Brasilia on May 10, 2016. (AFP photo)

Brazil has been the scene of a major political turmoil over the past months, with embattled Rousseff intensively fighting for her political survival against opposition congressmen, who aggressively seek her ouster, saying she illegally manipulated government budget accounts during her 2014 reelection battle.
President Rousseff is also under fire over a graft scandal at state oil giant oil Petrobras, where she was the manager before taking office as president in 2010.
However, Rousseff has denied the allegations against her as politically-motivated, accusing the opposition of orchestrating a coup.

Brazil’s senate opened debate today with President Dilma Rousseff’s fate in the balance, as legislators moved towards a vote on whether to impeach the once-popular leader and allow a possible trial for allegedly violating budget laws.
The outcome – which was expected after a marathon session of speeches by critics and backers – caps months of street protests and political brinksmanship that has sent South America’s largest nation into deep crisis.
It also raises the prospect of more turmoil as Brazil takes the world stage soon as host of the Olympics.
Anti-impeachment protesters blocked roads with burning tyres in cities including Sao Paulo and the capital, Brasilia, as the senate proceedings got underway. Groups backing Rousseff called for a national strike.
But her support base has withered as the showdown dragged on – pulling Brazil’s economy into its worst downturn in 80 years and further exposing rank corruption throughout Brazil’s political establishment.

If 41 of the country’s 81 senators vote to impeach her, Rousseff would be served a written notice of the decision and forced to temporarily step down. Vice-President Michel Temer would assume the presidency.”We will start to breathe again,” one of Rousseff’s foes, Senator Magno Malta, told reporters outside the senate, “and the doctor will say the nation has shown signs of life and will be stable soon.”
Senators would have 180 days to conduct hearings ahead of a final vote to determine her fate.
According to unofficial tallies by Brazilian media, at least 50 senators are planning to vote for impeachment. The final margin will be closely watched as a barometer of support for her full removal.
A two-thirds majority of the Senate will be needed to permanently unseat her, so if at least 54 senators vote for impeachment today, it will be widely interpreted as a sign that her presidency is probably finished.
Rousseff is accused of improperly using loans from government banks to patch budget gaps and fund popular social programmes. Senators must decide whether this amounts to a “crime of responsibility” under Brazilian law.
Rousseff’s opponents say she deceived legislators and the public about the state of the country’s finances in order to conceal her mismanagement of the economy.
She denies any wrongdoing and insists that her predecessors used the same bookkeeping tactics.
At the Vatican, Pope Francis – the first Latin American Pontiff – expressed hope that Brazil will find unity after this “time of difficulty.”
Rousseff narrowly won re-election in 2014, but recent polls show that her approval rating has slumped to about 10 per cent.
Attorney-General José Cardozo, who is defending Rousseff, said he would file additional appeals to the Supreme Court, but its justices have dismissed previous attempts to halt the process.
Protesters opposed to Rousseff’s impeachment held street rallies and blocked roadways in at least 21 states yesterday. Rousseff and her leftist Workers’ Party have rallied supporters by painting the push to oust her as a “coup” and a threat to Brazilian democracy, which was restored in 1985 after two decades of right-wing military rule. Rousseff, 68, was jailed and tortured by the dictatorship for her activities as a leftist militant.
Rousseff showed no sign of giving up in a speech yesterday.
“I am not tired of fighting,” she said, criticising former political allies, such as Vice-President Temer, who have turned against her. “I am tired of those who are disloyal and traitors. I am sure Brazil is also tired [of them], and it is this fatigue which drives my fight every day.”
Last month Brazil’s Lower House voted 367 to 137 to impeach Rousseff. The interim house Speaker stunned the country on Tuesday when he tried to annul that vote, but he changed his mind less than 24 hours later, clearing a path for today’s vote in the Senate.
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