BRASILIA •The impeachment of Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff was thrown into confusion yesterday when the Speaker of the Lower House of Congress annulled an April vote by lawmakers to launch the process.
Mr Waldir Maranhao, the interim Speaker of the Lower House, wrote in an order that a new vote should take place on whether to impeach Ms Rousseff.
The surprise move came just as the Senate was preparing to vote this week on whether to suspend Ms Rousseff from office while an impeachment trial gets under way. Mr Maranhao's order said that legislators should hold a new vote in five sessions' time. However, it was not immediately clear how the chaotic new developments would unfold.
The Senate was due to start its own voting process tomorrow, with a majority expected to vote for Ms Rousseff to be suspended.
It was not clear whether Mr Maranhao's order would stand or would be challenged, possibly in the Supreme Court.
In her first reaction, Ms Rousseff interrupted a speech to supporters to say that she had just got unconfirmed news of her impeachment hitting a roadblock. "I don't know the consequences. Please be cautious," she said, calling on her backers to "defend democracy".
The Lower House voted in mid-April by an overwhelming majority to send Ms Rousseff's case to the Senate for trial.
The political crisis comes on top of one of the deepest recessions in decades in Latin America's biggest economy, just three months before it hosts the Olympic Games in Rio from Aug 5 to 21.
The affair has heightened tensions in the country, which has been shaken by a separate corruption scandal involving state oil company Petrobras that has implicated numerous politicians, including allies and enemies of Ms Rousseff.
Ministers are reportedly clearing their desks in government offices in the capital, Brasilia, where the legislature is currently suspended pending the impeachment proceedings.
Ms Rousseff, 68, has branded the drive to get rid of her a "coup" by "traitors" such as Vice-President Michel Temer, 75, who will take over as head of state if she is suspended. "This is an indirect election disguised as impeachment. The usurpers of power, who unfortunately include the vice-president, are complicit in an extremely serious procedure," she said last Friday.
In further declarations on Saturday, she called for full elections.
"If they want to pass political judgment on my government, they should turn to the Brazilian people, not to impeachment."