Thursday, May 12th, 2016

Future Tense for Dilma Rouseff as Brazilian senate debates impeachment

Narada Desk | May 12, 2016 3:23 am Print
The vote will decide whether to put the country's first woman president on trial. The prevailing uncertainty also comes at a time when the world is preparing to go to Rio-de-Janerio for the Summer Olympics

The Brazilian senate is debating whether to suspend President Dilma Rousseff from office and put her on trial.

The vote if carried through will end the 13 year old rule by her leftist Workers Party.

After about 45 of the 81 senators having had their say at this marathon session, it has become more or less clear that Brazil’s first woman president will be impeached by an overwhelming majority. Only 10 spoke in Rouseff’s favour, while another senator did not reveal how he will vote.

Before the vote, there were indications that Rouseff had made up her mind to step down during the duration of the probe of 180 days. The beleaguered president is most likely to be replaced by Vice President Michel Temer, a pro-business former ally turned foe.

But reports now indicate that Rouseff has decided to fight to finish and not resign.

The impeachment session which began on Wednesday  is now likely to conclude only at 6 am local time. Each of the 81 senators are allowed to speak for 15 minutes prior to the vote.

The hugely unpopular leader is not facing public anger for personal corruption. But she is accused of using accounting manouvers to mask the quantum of country’s financial deficit to bolster her chance of re-election in a 2014 poll.

Angry Brazilians were out on the streets in many cities like Sao Paulo as the senate was debating Rouseff’s fate. Police have erected razor wire fences to separate supporters of the president and those opposed to her. There were also reports of angry protesters clashing with the police.

The political uncertainty comes months before the world will converge in Brazil’s showpiece Rio de Janerio for the Summer Olympics.

Brazil’s Supreme Court had on Wednesday denied a last-ditch appeal by Rousseff’s administration against impeachment proceedings in the Senate.

Judge Teori Zavascki denied the appeal by the office of the solicitor general, which argued that the impeachment process was flawed from the outset and should be halted.

Solicitor General Jose Eduardo Cardozo maintained that in December the then-speaker of the lower house, Eduardo Cunha, had acted out of revenge in accepting the opposition’s request to open impeachment proceedings against the president.

He said Cunha, a political enemy of Rousseff’s who was suspended last week by the Supreme Court over corruption allegations, made the decision after the ruling coalition denied him the votes to block an ethics investigation that could lead to his ouster.

Cunha faces charges of obstructing investigations into allegations that he hid some $5 million in bribes in secret bank accounts in Switzerland.

Zavascki, however, said there was no way to legally prove that Cunha’s actions had overstepped the bounds of legitimate political opposition and thus invalidated the impeachment process.

The justice added that Cunha’s actions received the ample backing of other lower-house lawmakers and that it was implausible to conclude that the initial impetus he gave to the process “had the power to contaminate all the other decisions of his colleagues”.

The lower house voted in favour of impeachment last month and sent the process to the Senate.

Despite Zavascki’s ruling, Sen. Lindbergh Farias, one of Rousseff’s staunchest supporters in the upper house, said on Wednesday that her administration would file another appeal with the Supreme Court to try to block a possible impeachment trial.

On Tuesday, the president of Brazil’s Senate, Renan Calheiros, denied a petition by the ruling party to postpone an impeachment vote in the upper house until the Supreme Court could rule on the request for an injunction by the office of the solicitor general.

An impeachment trial is considered highly likely because it would require the approval of just 41 of Brazil’s 81 senators, or a simple majority.

Some 50 senators had said they will vote for a trial, according to surveys published in the media.

The president would return to office if acquitted, but if she is convicted on charges she purposely delayed the repayment of loans from state-owned banks and carried out other fiscal maneuvers in 2014 and 2015 to disguise the size of the budget deficit then Temer would serve out her term, which is due to expire on January 1, 2019.

(with inputs from IANS)