Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Dilma's impeachment to move forward, despite surprise annulment and reversal (May 10, 2016)

Just when observers seemed to have a grip on Brazil's ongoing political drama, the interim House Speaker announced yesterday that he would annul last month's lower chamber vote to impeach President Dilma Rousseff based on procedural irregularities. Then late last night he suddenly reversed his decision, and announced he was revoking his earlier decision, reports the New York Times.

Waldir Maranhão, who is temporarily occupying the post as of last week, gave no reason for his reversal, reports Reuters. He was threatened with expulsion from his Progressive Party, reports El País. Other factors weighing on his surprise reversal included a strong rejection by lawmakers, reports Folha de S. Paulo.

His about face is yet another reversal for Rousseff, who hoped to use the annulment as a foothold to challenge the impeachment before the Supreme Court, according to Folha de S. Paulo.

The annulment decision itself was likely influenced by Flavio Dino, governor of Maranhão's home state and a Rousseff ally, reports El País.

The Senate is expected to carry out a scheduled vote tomorrow that would suspend Rousseff from office and put her on impeachment trial. She is widely expected to be ousted over the accusations of budgetary manipulation.
Senate president Renan Calheiros yesterday said he would not respect Maranhão's surprise move to annul the impeachment decision, reports the Wall Street Journal. Yet, the effect of the strange announcement and reversal is likely to be a doubling down on the impeachment efforts, reports the New York Times, with politicians angered by the apparent absurdity of the process.

Yet, "such reversals are a staple of Brazilian politics, and the impeachment drama has been filled with such dramatic turns," notes the Associated Press.
Experts are pointing to the increasing chaos of the process. Yesterday's annulment decision would have likely led to a constitutional standoff case before the Supreme Court, and threw the markets into disarray, reports Reuters.

Maranhão stepped into the post last week, after the Supreme Court suspended the former Speaker of the House, Eduardo Cunha, who is accused of corruption. Yet Maranhão, who would be second in line to the presidency if Rousseff is ousted, is also facing allegations linking him to the giant Petrobras graft scandal, notes the New York Times.

Vice President Michel Temer is widely expected to take office by the end of the week, and has indicated he will start a cabinet focused on shoring up the country's economic recession, reports the Wall Street Journal.

Maranhão is not expected to last long in his post after yesterday's surprises, but will have to be wooed by Temer to be onboard for the beginning of the interim government's plans, reports El País. The new government will need to pass unpopular austerity measures through Congress.

Washington Post piece looks at how the ghosts of Brazil's undemocratic past have influenced the narrative of Rousseff's impeachment -- from her accusations that opponents are carrying out a coup, to opposition glorification of military dictatorship and human rights abuses.

News Briefs
  • São Paulo police have been forcibly removing students occupying public schools and buildings in protest over a scheme in which school administrators allegedly overpaid food providers in exchange for bribes. It is believe the "Lunch Money Mafia" cost the school's nutritional system millions, reports the Los Angeles Times. Students report missing or inadequate food, and surveys of nutritionists by local media found overwhelming evidence that students did not always have healthy portions.
  • A Mexican judge ruled that notorious drug lord Joaquín "El Chapo" Guzmán can be extradited to the U.S., where he would face federal charges of drug trafficking. The supposition is also that he would be less likely to be able to slip out of jail, as he has already done twice from maximum security prisons in Mexico, reports the New York Times. (See yesterday's briefs.)
  • Today is adolescent mothers' day in Mexico. The country has over 30 daily births in which the mother is under fifteen, and has the highest teen pregnancy rate of OECD countries, reports El País.
  • As Colombia's population increasingly doubts the peace process with the FARC, former President Álvaro Uribe is calling for a massive protest against the negotiations with the country's largest guerrilla group, reports El Espectador. (See yesterday's briefs.)
  • An armed attack at a political gathering in northern Colombia did not harm Imelda Daza, one of the few survivors of the leftist Patriotic Union, or UP, party, which was the target of an extermination campaign by paramilitaries in the 1980s and 1990s, reports the Latin American Herald Tribune. He returned to the country after 20 years in exile. (Last year's elections marked the return of the party to Colombian politics, see briefs for Oct. 26, 2015.)
  • Salvadoran authorities announced the arrest of five police officers, 16 gunmen and a police administrative employee allegedly involved in several homicides, reports the Associated Press. The arrests come amid a crackdown on gangs, and increasing scrutiny of reported extrajudicial killings by security forces. (See Friday's post and yesterday's.)
  • Five men were charged with the murder of Honduran environmental activist Berta Cáceres last week. One of the suspects is linked to the company DESA, which owns and operates the Agua Zarca hydropower project Cáceres opposed, reports CNN. (See yesterday's briefs.) 
  • Peruvian presidential candidate Keiko Fujimori has a slight lead over rival Pedro Pablo Kuczynski ahead of the June 5 run-off election, reports Reuters. The latest Ipsos poll published this weekend showed Fujimori with 42 percent support compared with Kuczynski's 39 percent. According to the poll 14 percent of respondents are either undecided or intend to cast blank ballots. She is shoring up support with conservative stances on LGBT marriage, abortion and informal mining, reports El País.
  • More corruption accusations for former Guatemalan President Otto Pérez Molina and his VP Roxana Baldetti: They were charged last week by a Guatemalan court for fraud, receiving bribes, and money laundering in a case related to a massive government infrastructure contract, reports VICE News.
  • Bolivian President Evo Morales said neighboring Chile is acting in a threatening fashion by establishing a military base close to the countries' shared border. Chile admits to stepping up military patrols but denies a base, reports the BBC.
  • Looking for somewhere "cool" to stay while at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics? Favela tourism is reaching a new high, reports El País. But beware the c¡ty's "endemic" violence, warns Brazilian World Cup winner Rivaldo, according to the Associated Press. (See yesterday's briefs.) 

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