A committee of Brazil’s lower house of Congress has recommended the impeachment of President Dilma Rousseff, who faces charges of breaking budget laws to support her re-election in 2014.
The committee voted 38-27 in favour of the move, with a vote in the full lower house 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 over corruption charges and resigned moments before his conviction by the Senate.
Rousseff’s chief of staff, Jaques Wagner, said the president was “perplexed and saddened” by the committee vote. A former leftist guerrilla, she 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.
Rousseff, caught in a political storm fueled by Brazil’s worst recession in decades and the country’s biggest corruption scandal, has lost key coalition allies in Congress, including her main partner, vice president Temer’s PMDB party.
Billions in bribes
The rift between Rousseff and her vice president reached new highs on Monday after an audio message of Temer calling for a government of national unity was released – apparently by mistake.
Temer’s 14-minute audio message sent to members of his own PMDB party via WhatsApp messenger appeared to show him rehearsing an acceptance speech he would give if he took over.
The latest moves in Brazil’s political crisis have the country on edge as it faces not only a government meltdown but its worst recession in decades.
The political chaos in the capital, Brasilia, is playing out less than 100 days before the nation hosts the first Olympic Games to be held in South America – an event that will cast the world’s eyes on Brazil.
The battle over Rousseff’s impeachment has polarised the nation of 200 million people and brought the government of Latin America’s largest economy to a virtual standstill.
The proposed impeachment is also taking place as Brazil faces its largest corruption investigation, targeting a sprawling kickback scheme at state-run oil company Petrobras.
Prosecutors say billions in bribes were paid over several years and have implicated not only members of Rousseff’s Workers’ Party but members of the opposition leading the charge to impeach her.
Eduardo Cunha, the speaker of Brazil’s lower house, a Rousseff enemy who is guiding the impeachment proceedings, faces charges of accepting millions in bribes in connection to the Petrobras case, while the head of Brazil’s Senate is also caught up in the investigation.