Friday, April 15, 2016

Political Tumult Puts Brazilian Government on the Ropes
Brazil is facing a week that is crucial to its political future, after more than a month of political and judicial uproar, with the right wing insisting on removing President Dilma Rousseff from office, even at the cost of violating the country’s Constitution

Laura Bécquer Paseiro |
April 13, 2016 15:04:36

Brazil is facing a week that is crucial to its political future, after more than a month of political and judicial uproar, with the right wing insisting on removing President Dilma Rousseff from office, even at the cost of violating the country’s Constitution.

On April 11, a special parliamentary commission approved the initiation of impeachment proceedings against Rousseff, by majority vote. The decision must now be debated and approved, or rejected, in a plenary session by the House of Deputies.

The President’s predecessor, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, is also being investigated, in an effort to tarnish his image, and derail his possible candidacy in the 2018 presidential elections.

The request for impeachment is based on alleged manipulations of public accounts by Rousseff, while an electoral court is investigating charges that her 2014 election campaign received illegal monies from the state enterprise Petrobras. To date, none of these accusations have been proven.

Two figures in the Brazilian Democratic Movement Party (PMDB) are playing a leading role in the political crisis. One of these is the country’s Vice President, Michel Temer, who since December of last year has publicly expressed his dissatisfaction with the Workers’ Party government.

The other individual is Eduardo Cunha, the House of Deputies leader who was under investigation as a suspect in the Petrobras corruption scheme, and is a self-proclaimed enemy of President Rousseff.

Given the commission vote, pressure is mounting to accelerate the process initiated by Cunha last December.

If 342 deputies vote to continue the impeachment, the issue will then pass to the Senate for discussion, which for its part has 180 days to analyze the proposal. An eventual conviction would require the support of at least 54 Senators, and the President would be removed from office.

The Brazilian Constitution stipulates that, in the event of impeachment, the current Vice President, Michel Temer of the PMDB in this case, would assume the Presidency, and serve through the end of the term in 2018.


If Rousseff is investigated, Temer is also under the microscope as her running mate on the presidential ticket. This would imply that if the Supreme Electoral Court rules against them, Temer would not be able to assume the Presidency if Dilma is impeached. In this case, the head of the House of Deputies, Eduardo Cunha, would be called upon to occupy the Planalto Presidential Palace.

If such a conviction were to take place in the first half of the presidential term (before the end of 2016), the House of Deputies leadership is obliged to call new elections within 90 days of the ruling.

If such a conviction were to take place in the second half of the presidential term, the House of Deputies and Senate would select a successor.

Another possible scenario is that Rousseff and Temer resign, but analysts do not consider this likely.

Yet another option is a referendum, in which citizens would decide whether or not to unseat Rousseff and Temer. Some legislators are proposing this route. A referendum differs from the impeachment process, in that a trial is not required to remove government officials for “inefficiency” or “popular disapproval.”


Brazilian Attorney General José Eduardo Cardozo has asserted that the impeachment of Rousseff is “null and illegal,” saying that its foundation is “absolute fantasy, unreal and inconsistent.”

Cardozo has insisted that the process is rife with illegalities and issues which could interfere with Rousseff’s right to a “legitimate defense,” saying that, if the process continues along the same lines, it would constitute a “coup d’etat,” since the charges fail to meet minimum legal requirements, such as proof of “a crime of responsibility,” beyond a reasonable doubt.

He also announced that, if the government sees that a trial of the President is imminent, it will appeal to the Supreme Court, which will “no doubt” accept the Attorney General’s allegations.

Nevertheless, he explained, for now, the government is counting on support in the House of Deputies, to defeat the commission’s report. He also said, “Once this question has been resolved, the government must dialogue with all sectors, to overcome this crisis and ensure that Brazil retakes its normal course.”


On April 5, the Federal Supreme Court ordered the initiation of a process to impeach Temer, since he had authorized extraordinary government credits without required parliamentary support.

President Dilma Rousseff has denounced the impeachment as an attempted coup. Photo: EFE
The decision was legally founded on the same type of irregularities allegedly committed by President Rousseff, which has led to her possible impeachment.

Judge Marco Aurélio Mello cautiously ruled that the charges, discounted last December by Eduardo Cunha in the House of Deputies, must be reactivated, and a trial of Vice President Temer held.

Cunha – Rousseff’s enemy and ally of Temper – had shelved the charges presented by Mariel Márley Marra, claiming that they were unfounded.

Now however, the Supreme Court judge has ordered the reactivation of Marra’s petition, and the immediate installation of a parliamentary commission to investigate the charges.

The petition for Temer’s impeachment alleges that the Vice President committed a crime of responsibility when he illegally signed four credit authorizations, while serving as interim President.

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