Brazil Largest Party to Abandon Rousseff, Impeachment Very Likely

Brazil’s largest party will decide on Tuesday whether or not to break away from President Rousseff’s coalition.

Published
World
3 min read
Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff speaks during a visit  for the 2016 Olympic Games, in Brasilia, Brazil. (Picture Courtesy: AP Exchange)

Brazil’s largest party will decide on Tuesday to break away from President Dilma Rousseff’s floundering coalition, party leaders said, sharply raising the odds that the country’s first woman president will be impeached amid a corruption scandal.

The fractious Brazilian Democratic Movement Party (PMDB) will decide at its national leadership meeting on the pace of disengagement from the Rousseff administration, in which it holds seven ministerial posts and the vice presidency.

A formal rupture appears inevitable and will increase the isolation of the unpopular Rousseff, freeing PMDB members to vote for her impeachment.

That makes it likely Rousseff will be temporarily suspended from office by Congress as early as May and replaced by Vice President Michel Temer, leader of the PMDB, while the Senate decides if she should be permanently ousted.

Tourism Minister Henrique, Eduardo Alves, a PMDB leader and former speaker of the lower house of Congress, announced on Monday he was resigning from Rousseff’s cabinet.

Dialogue, I regret to say, has been exhausted.
Eduardo Alves in his resignation letter

Temer aides said the vice president is ready to take over and move fast to restore business confidence in Brazil, in an effort to pull the economy out of a tailspin. Brazilian media reported over the weekend that a team of Temer aides is drawing up a plan for his first weeks as president.

President Dilma Rousseff speaks during a meeting of pro-government lawyers Brazil on Tuesday (22 March). (Picture Courtesy: AP Exchange)
President Dilma Rousseff speaks during a meeting of pro-government lawyers Brazil on Tuesday (22 March). (Picture Courtesy: AP Exchange)

Brazil’s stocks and currency rose on Monday on the prospect of Rousseff’s removal. Many blame her for running Latin America’s largest economy into the ground, while Temer is widely viewed as far more business friendly.

The Economist Intelligence Unit said in a note to clients it no longer expects Rousseff to survive impeachment, joining other risk analysts who have raised the odds of her removal.

Party officials calculate that 70 to 80 percent of the 119 voting members of the PMDB directorate will vote to end the party’s alliance with Rousseff and the ruling Workers’ Party. One told Reuters that 75 had already pledged to do so.

Rousseff is an economist by training and a former Marxist guerrilla who was imprisoned and tortured during Brazil’s long military dictatorship. She vigorously denies any wrongdoing and rejects impeachment charges that she manipulated government spending accounts to help her re-election in 2014.

The impeachment process only adds to the crisis hitting Brazil, shaken by its biggest corruption scandal – an investigation into political kickbacks to the ruling coalition and other parties from contractors working for state oil company, Petrobras.

Rousseff’s government is also grappling with Brazil’s worst recession in decades and an epidemic of the mosquito-borne Zika virus, as it scrambles to host the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro in August.

The Petrobras scandal has weakened Rousseff by reaching her inner circle with allegations against her mentor and predecessor, Workers’ Party founder Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.

An attempt by Rousseff to appoint Lula to her Cabinet was the last straw for many of her allies who saw it as a desperate move to shield him from prosecution by a lower federal court that is overseeing most of the Petrobras case.

The two largest, the Progressive Party (PP) and the Republican Party (PR), each with 40 seats or more in the lower chamber, have signalled that they are leaving.

An impeachment vote is expected as soon as mid-April in the lower house. If she fails to block it with the votes of 171 of its 513 members, Rousseff would face a trial in the Senate where she has lost crucial support among the PMDB.

(The Quint is available on Telegram. For handpicked stories every day, subscribe to us on Telegram)

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