Brazil Congressional Committee Recommends Impeaching Rousseff
Demonstrators parade large inflatable dolls depicting Brazil’s former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva in prison garb and current President Dilma Rousseff dressed as a thief, with a presidential sash that reads “Impeachment,” in Sao Paulo, Brazil, 13 March 2016. (Photo: AP)
Demonstrators parade large inflatable dolls depicting Brazil’s former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva in prison garb and current President Dilma Rousseff dressed as a thief, with a presidential sash that reads “Impeachment,” in Sao Paulo, Brazil, 13 March 2016. (Photo: AP)

Brazil Congressional Committee Recommends Impeaching Rousseff

A committee of Brazil‘s lower house of Congress voted 38-27 on Monday to recommend the impeachment of President Dilma Rousseff, who faces charges of breaking budget laws to support her re-election in 2014.

A vote in the full lower house is expected to take place on Sunday. If two-thirds vote in favour, the impeachment will be sent to the Senate.

If the upper house decides by a simple majority to put Rousseff on trial, she will immediately be suspended for up to six months while the Senate decides her fate, and Vice President Michel Temer will take office as acting president.

It would be the first impeachment of a Brazilian president since 1992 when Fernando Collor de Mello faced massive protests for his ouster on corruption charges and resigned moments before his conviction by the Senate.

A former leftist guerrilla, Rousseff has denied any wrongdoing and rallied the rank and file of her Workers’ Party to oppose what she has called a coup against a democratically elected president.

Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff. (Photo: AP)
Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff. (Photo: AP)

Speaking to thousands of supporters in Rio de Janeiro, Rousseff‘s predecessor and Workers’ Party founder Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva said Brazilian business elites were pressuring lawmakers to remove the president. Lula, who is under investigation in a graft probe, said he had convincedRousseff to return to policies that favored Brazil‘s poor.

Caught in a political storm fuelled by Brazil‘s worst recession in decades and the country’s biggest corruption scandal, Rousseff has lost key coalition allies in Congress, including her main partner, vice president Temer’s PMDB party.

The rift between Rousseff and her vice president reached breaking point on Monday after an audio message of Temer calling for a government of national unity was released apparently by mistake, further muddying Brazil‘s political water.

Temer’s 14-minute audio message sent to members of his own PMDB party via the WhatsApp messaging app showed he was preparing to take over if Rousseff is forced from office.

The audio was posted on the website of the Folha de S Paulo newspaper and confirmed to Reuters by Temer’s aides as authentic. Aides said it was accidentally released and they quickly sent another message asking legislators to disregard it.

In his message, Temer said he did not want to get ahead of events, but he had to show the country he was ready to lead it if needed.

We need a government of national salvation and national unity. We need to unite all the political parties, and all the parties should be ready to collaborate to drag Brazil out of this crisis. 
Michel Temer, Vice President, Brazil
The rift between Rousseff and her VP became worse after the release of an audio recording was released. (Photo: AP)
The rift between Rousseff and her VP became worse after the release of an audio recording was released. (Photo: AP)

Rousseff‘s chief of staff Jaques Wagner called the vice president a “conspirator” and said he should resign if Rousseff survives impeachment.

Having joined the conspiracy, he should resign when it is defeated, because the climate will become unbearable. 
Jaques Wagner, Chief of Staff to Rousseff

Wagner said the government will continue working to muster enough votes to block impeachment in the lower house, encouraged by the fact that in committee the opposition had not won the two thirds it will need in the plenary.

The committee vote, however, is expected to sway undecided lawmakers to vote for Rousseff‘s removal, said Claudio Couto, a politics professor at the Fundacao Getulio Vargas think tank.

It has a snowball effect. With each approval, the chances of impeachment clearing the next chamber increases. The wider the margin, the more momentum impeachment will gather.
Claudio Couto, Politics Professor

The Brasilia-based consultancy Arko Advice said committee votes for impeachment were higher than expected and it raised to 65 percent the odds of Rousseff being unseated by Congress.