U-turn in Brazil on vote to impeach President

Mr Maranhao meeting the press after annulling the impeachment process on Monday. He changed his mind yesterday.
Mr Maranhao meeting the press after annulling the impeachment process on Monday. He changed his mind yesterday.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

BRASILIA • The drive to oust President Dilma Rousseff is back on track after the head of the Lower House reversed a decision that earlier had threatened to throw the entire impeachment process into chaos.

Lawmaker Waldir Maranhao released a statement in the dead of night yesterday revoking his own call to annul impeachment sessions in the Lower House. That puts the Senate back in the spotlight, with a vote on whether to put the unpopular president on trial still slated for today. If successful, it would temporarily remove her from office.

Ms Rousseff is charged with illegally using state banks to plug a hole in the Budget.

Monday's wrangling jolted investors and underscored the intensity of a power struggle that is sure to heat up even further.

Since proceedings began in Congress late last year, legislators have engaged in shoving matches and Ms Rousseff has accused her vice-president of plotting a coup against her. The Supreme Court has been forced to step in to clarify legal questions.

"Even the best laws aren't good enough for the scale of this battle," said Professor Carlos Pio, a politics lecturer at the University of Brasilia. "The impeachment process will continue and with it the noise, challenges and uncertainty that we've been seeing."

TV footage showed anti-impeachment protesters burning tyres to stop traffic in some of Sao Paulo's main roads, including the one leading to the international airport. Government supporters have scheduled more protests for the next few days.

The unrest comes as Brazilians suffer from an outbreak of the Zika virus, the worst recession in 25 years and a graft scandal involving state oil company Petrobras.

Earlier on Monday, Mr Maranhao argued that Lower House deputies should not have announced their intention ahead of the April 17 vote to send the motion to impeach on to the Senate.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 11, 2016, with the headline 'U-turn in Brazil on vote to impeach President'. Print Edition | Subscribe