Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Senate voting on Rousseff's impeachment trial (May 11, 2016)

The Brazilian Senate will begin voting today on whether to place President Dilma Rousseff on trial for impeachment over allegations of budgetary manipulation. If the vote is positive, as expected, Rousseff will be suspended from office for six months, reports the New York Times. A simple majority is needed to suspend her, and well over half the Senators have said they'd vote to put Rousseff on trial, reports Reuters. She's expected to leave the Planalto presidential palace tomorrow.

(See yesterday's post.)

Nonetheless, the government is fighting what it portrays as a coup attempt until the last minute. Brazil's attorney general asked the Supreme Court to suspend the impeachment process yesterday, reports the Wall Street Journal. The petition is unlikely to be successful.

Protesters against the impeachment blocked roads, set fires and slowed traffic in 15 Brazilian states yesterday, reports the Los Angeles Times.

"Wednesday's vote is part of a tumultuous process that raised serious questions about Brazilian leaders’ capacity to steer the country through a series of crises," writes the Wall Street Journal, somewhat ominously.

El País has a sober editorial criticizing the impeachment efforts, noting that the chaotic nature of the proceedings lends credence to Rousseff's accusations of a political coup. "This institutional crisis raises more than reasonable doubts regarding the legitimacy of a new president who rose through such an unusual process. Brazil cannot permit itself such a spectacle, the damage caused is incalculable."

The Senate proceeding will likely be more tempered than the riotous vote in the lower house, in which legislators seemed to focus on anything but the actual budgetary manipulation allegations, reports the Wall Street Journal. (See April 18's post.)

El País reports on regional repercussions to the Brazil crisis.
Still confused over what's going on in Brazil? The Associated Press explains the impeachment process in a nutshell.

Live updates from the Guardian.

News Briefs
  • The Associated Press reports on court documents obtained in the case of the Ayotzinapa investigation: in which 10 suspects describe how they were tortured in order to extract "testimony" in support of the government version of events leading to the disappearance of 43 students in 2014. Five are the same cases reviewed in the last report of the GIEI group of independent experts backed by the IAHRC, which published medical reports that appear to confirm the allegations of torture. (See April 26's post.) The suspects in the documents described similar treatment: first the questions, then the punches, electric shocks and partial asphyxiations with plastic bags; then, finally, threats to kill their loved ones.
  • Venezuela's Electoral Board is analyzing signatures gathered in support of a recall referendum on President Nicolás Maduro's mandate. In an attempt to pressure the CNE, the political opposition has called for a march today, which will be met with a counter march by government supporters, reports El País. The CNE has 30 days to validate the signatures gathered as a first step to convoking a recall vote. (See April 27's post.)
  • Maduro's popularity ratings remain relatively high, but dropped in March to 26.8 percent, according to Datanálisis. WOLA's David Smilde digs deeper into the data, noting that there's good news for the opposition which is maintaining support of over half the population, and especially for National Assembly President Henry Ramos Allup, now the country's most popular politician. Fifty-seven percent of respondents said they would vote against Maduro in a recall referendum, up five points from the month before.
  • At the Caracas Chronicles Juan Cristobal Nagel explains how the multi-pronged opposition strategy to oust Maduro democratically, which included proposals for a constitutional amendment reducing presidential term limits and a constitutional assembly, have been reduced essentially to the referendum efforts. (See March 9's post.)
  • Nine people were killed during a crackdown by Venezuelan security forces on crime around Caracas, reports AFP.
  • Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos told investors in London that his government hopes to conclude a peace deal with FARC rebels "in the very near future," reports Reuters. (See Monday's briefs.)
  • As the country inches closer to peace though, war-related injuries will continue for a while thanks to territory littered with land mines, reports the Miami Herald. International experts are gathered in Bogotá this week after pledge by Colombia, the U.S. and Norway to make the country land mine free by 2021.
  • A protest by supporters of murdered Honduran activist Berta Cáceres was broken up by Presidential Palace guards yesterday, reports the Latin American Herald Tribune.
  • The U.S. Embassy in Havana softened wording from a previous travel warning to Cuban American travelers to the island, reports the Miami Herald.
  • Cuba's telecommunication market it heating up, according to the Miami Herald
  • Just when Latin America's pink tide really seems to be over, Mark Weisbrot argues in The Nation that the historic changes the leftist-populist governments wrought in the past decade will ensure the movements' ongoing relevance.

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