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Brazil's top court suspends impeachment of Rousseff

Supreme Court needs to rule out the validity of pro-impeachment ballot

 

Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff’s impeachment suspended by the Supreme Court, reports Anthony Boadle in his article for Reuters.

The impeachment committee creation and the impeachment process against Dilma Rousseff would be postponed until the Supreme Court of Brazil rules on the secret vote result that pushed the leftist leader’s exclusion. Justice Luiz Fachin announced that the suspension would last until the actions, which might later be nullified by Supreme Court, are eliminated. This has given Rousseff a break in her ruling coalition’s attempts to unseat her. However, besides these struggles she also is dealing with Petrobras oil company, corruption investigation of which has deeply affected her and her associates.

Although Rousseff herself is not under investigation, her former point man in the Senate is, and now Delcidio Amaral is in jail anticipating trial on charges of hindering Petrobras probe. He agreed to collaborate with attorneys but the unraveling of the situation might very well lead to new disclosures concerning Rousseff and her ruling Workers’ Party.

Rousseff’s political foe, Eduardo Cunha, and his coalition, that tried to assemble pro-impeachment committee without public attention, would be also curbed by the decision of Supreme Court. Cunha himself faces accusations of corruption and bribery and tried to feint by charging Rousseff with violation of budget laws and lawless spending for her political campaign. Cunha kept his private Swiss bank accounts in secret and managed to prevent his unseating. Rousseff in her turn has declined the allegations and added that in her opinion she was being impeached because of expanded social spending.

Anthony Boadle assumes: “Many Brazilians want to see Rousseff go because they blame her for the worst recession in 25 years, which is being deepened by concern over the country's political future. Brazil came one step closer to losing its prized investment-grade credit rating on Wednesday when Moody's Investors Service said it was studying a possible downgrade because of the deteriorating economy, widening fiscal deficit and increasing risks of political paralysis.”

The results of the secret ballot came to 272-199 for Rousseff’s impeachment. The voting committee comprised her opponents and pro-impeachment members of centrist Brazilian Democratic Party led by Cunha. Almost a third of the committee members have been or are charged with corruption, electoral fraud and money laundering. The suspension was initiated by the Communist party who despite being a small Rousseff’s ally contributed its mite.

If the impeachment committee’s desire fulfills, the full vote on the house floor would be held. If the majority of votes are reached, Rousseff will be substituted by Vice President Michel Temer until the end of 180-day impeachment trial.  However, the growing tension between Rousseff and Temer whose party is growing to move away from President’s coalition, might lead to unproductive relations.

“Tuesday's vote on the impeachment committee was a blow to the PMDB leader in the lower house, Leonardo Picciani, an opponent of impeachment since Rousseff granted his faction two Cabinet posts in October.

 In a setback for the president, the party replaced him on Wednesday with Leonardo Quintao, a congressman less sympathetic to her,” adds Boadle.

The journalist quotes Senator Aloysio Nunes: "Removal of Picciani from the PMDB leadership hastens the dismantling of Rousseff's parliamentary base. She will end up with just the Workers' Party and the Communist Party."

EXPERT OPINION

Pedro Marin

It surely was a relief for the government. Both government and opposition have been struggling over the parliamentary recess, which was scheduled to begin in December 22. The deputies would have gone back to their duties only on February. After the government’s loss on the special commision, which would rule over the impeachment, and the following suspension by the Supreme Court, the government decided it would be better to let the recess take place, and suspended taking any political strategy until December 16.

The fact is the Brazilian deputies are playing cards over Brazil’s economic situation– it is almost obvious that political stability scares investors. In regard to the legality of the process, it doesn’t seem that Dilma could be impeached. The Order of Attorneys of Brazil has already stated that Dilma’s fiscal manueverings aren’t enought for an impeachment. But the fact is it isn’t a legal matter, it is a political one, as top court’s Justice Gilmar Mendes said earlier today (December 10). It is true that President Dilma’s popularity has been going down dizzily, but it isn’t worse than the popularity rate of the Speaker of the Lower House, Eduardo Cunha, who is the key face of the impeachment process, and as polls show, is widely abhored.

That’s why vice-President Michel Temer’s letter to Dilma – strangely leaked to the press two days ago – is key. In the letter, Temer complains about Dilma’s lack of confidence in him and his Democratic party. Although the vice-President said the letter was no threat, it may be taken as a clear message to the opposition: If Cunha goes down, right-wing Progressive Party’s deputy Waldir Maranhão takes office. But Waldir has no popularity at all, neither in Congress nor among the voters. Temer would be the perfect new face for the impeachment:

1. His image, at least by now, is clean. He isn’t being investigated.
2. He can easily get the support needed in Congress, as he’s leader of PMDB, one of Brazil’s biggest parties, and has important contacts (in the letter, for instance, he talks about how he has good relations with U.S vice-President Joe Biden).
3. He’s next in line in case Dilma is impeached, so he surely has the interests.
4. The fact he’s been in the government would make the perfect argument for opposition: “Not even Temer, who was working with Dilma, can stand her government anymore”.

December 16 will be a turning point for Brazil. That’s when the Supreme Court decides if the impeachment process may go on or not. It’s also when  popular social movements and unions will take part in anti-impeachment demonstrations. Three days earlier, on 13th December, a pro-impeachment demonstration is scheduled, with all the “color-revolution” movements.

In a place where both Brazil’s President Dilma Roussef and the Speaker of the Lower House Cunha may fall and where most people (57%) disapprove of their congressmen, the noise from the streets is key, both for deputies and Justices of the Superior Court.

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