Stories about Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff's potential impeachment been going pretty much since her reelection last year. The rumor is a constantly recurring factor in the international and local press.
The lower chamber of Congress, whose speaker recently defected to the opposition, decides whether to start an impeachment process, which then goes to the Senate for a final ruling. Rousseff would be suspended as soon as the lower chamber agrees to impeach her, which requires two-thirds of the votes, explains the Associated Press.
Yet there is no sign that Rousseff wants to quit, and no evidence that would justify impeachment and little unity in the opposition, said Christopher Garman, the head of country analysis at consulting firm Eurasia Group in a Bloomberg piece. That paves the way for further political turmoil, he said.
Opposition parties are seeking to show that the government broke fiscal law by doctoring budget results last year, a practice used by previous administrations according to the government. Rousseff’s administration must also face a nationwide protest planned for this weekend.
The reasons for the particularly persistent impeachment narrative – with constant headlines in international media – merits a deeper look. The editor of online magazine Carta Maior, Joaquim Palhares, told Sputnik last month that the ongoing "soft coup" in Brazil was launched through rumors spread in mass media, linking Rousseff with the Petrobras corruption scandal, even though the investigation has never presented proof of the connection.
And in the same piece a Workers' Party advisor notes that since Rousseff's reelection opposition parties have resorted to "putschism." It's hardly the first time this year government allies have noted the attempt at a "soft-coup."
The opposition disputes the term. Potential impeachment proceedings against Dilma Rousseff should not be equated with a coup and would be constitutional, opposition senator and former presidential candidate Aécio Neves declared this weekend as he sought to up the pressure on the under-fire Brazil president, reports the Buenos Aires Herald, quoting a Veja interview.
Rousseff has not been investigated over the corruption at Petrobras, but Neves’ PSDB is hoping any evidence that dodgy money helped fund her re-election campaign last year could lead to a new election which would favour Neves, who narrowly lost to the president in a tight run-off last year.
“An impeachment will not happen just by the wish of the opposition, but by the combination of a number of factors, certainly including deeming whether (Rousseff) is guilty of having committed a crime. I do not know if there are elements of guilt, but nothing prevents them from appearing later,” the leader of the Brazilian Social Democracy Party (PSDB) added.
Former president and current Senator Fernando Collor de Mello, who resigned in 1992 in order to avoid impeachment proceedings, challenged Rousseff yesterday, saying she was legally elected, just as he was, reports Folha de S. Paulo.
Last week Rousseff gained the dubious honor of becoming Brazil's least popular president since democracy returned 30 years ago. (See yesterday's briefs.) Lack of approval has been fueled by the worst economic downturn of the past 25 years, high inflation and ongoing political corruption scandals.
But she's digging in her heels, reports Bloomberg. Rousseff has stepped up public appearances to trumpet her achievements and dined with senators to defuse discontent. State television on yesterday broadcast scenes of Rousseff posing with a baby and handing out keys to subsidized houses amid chants of “there will be no coup” by her supporters in Maranhao state, one of the poorest in Brazil. She said the nation “needs stability” to survive the crisis.
Rousseff asked the Senate to act as a moderator to the “bombs” tossed by the lower chamber, bills passed merely in order to oppose her government, reports Folha de S. Paulo. She is asking for support for a difficult austerity package, that seeks to maintain the country’s investment-grade rating, but which is opposed by many of her own party.
After the meeting the Senate president, Renan Calheiros, said that attempting to impeach Rousseff was not a priority and warned that seeking her removal in Congress would "set the country on fire," reports the Associated Press.
And that is the flip side of the impeachment narrative. Bloomberg notes that a perception of political instability might push Brazil into a deeper recession and “make it increasingly vulnerable to a sovereign-credit downgrade.” The real has depreciated 8.1 percent in the last month.
O Globo newspaper in an editorial on Friday called on all political parties to ensure Rousseff can govern. Some of her supporters in Congress are repeating that message.
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