Brazil prez faces impeachment move

Brazil prez faces impeachment move

Brazil prez faces impeachment move

 Brazil woke on Monday to deep political crisis after lawmakers authorised impeachment proceedings against President Dilma Rousseff, sparking claims that democracy was under threat in Latin America’s biggest country.

The Opposition deputies in the lower house of Congress needed 342 of the 513 votes, or a two thirds majority, to send Rousseff to the Senate, which will now decide whether to open a trial. They got there near midnight on Sunday after five hours of voting.

Wild cheering and a burst of confetti erupted from opposition ranks at the 342nd vote, countered by furious jeering from Rousseff allies in a snapshot of the bitter mood consuming Brazil just four months before Rio de Janeiro hosts the Olympics.

Presidential chief of staff Jacques Wagner accused deputies of voting for impeachment without proving that the leftist president, who is accused of illegally manipulating budget figures, had committed a serious crime.

“In this way, the Chamber of Deputies is threatening to interrupt 30 years of democracy in the country,” he said, referring to the end of a military dictatorship in 1985.

There was expected to be a euphoric reaction from the financial markets which have been betting heavily on a Rousseff exit and the advent of a more business-friendly government to kickstart Brazil’s flailing economy.

Outside Congress, where tens of thousands of people were watching giant TV screens, the split was echoed on a mass scale — with opposition supporters partying and Rousseff loyalists in despair.

If, as many expect, the Senate goes on to impeach the leftist president, Vice-President Michel Temer — who abandoned Rousseff to become a key opponent — will assume power.

Rousseff, 68, is accused of illegal accounting manoeuvres to mask government shortfalls during her 2014 re-election. Many Brazilians also hold her responsible for the economic mess and a massive corruption scandal centered on state oil company Petrobras, a toxic record that has left her government with 10 per cent approval ratings.

Now the decision by the lower house moves the matter to the Senate, which is expected to vote in May on whether to open a trial. In case of a green light there — which experts consider almost certain — Rousseff would step down for up to 180 days while the trial got under way.

If the Senate then voted by a two-thirds majority for impeachment, Rousseff would be ousted. Temer would stay on until elections in 2018.

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