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Brazil lawmakers authorize Rousseff impeachment

April 18 5.00am Uganda time

Brazil lawmakers give green light to Rousseff impeachment trial

Brasília, Brazil | AFP |

Brazilian lawmakers on Sunday authorized impeachment proceedings against President Dilma Rousseff in a rowdy, circus-like showdown that plunged Latin America’s biggest country into profound political crisis.

Opposition deputies in the lower house of Congress needed 342 of the 513 votes, or a two thirds majority, to send Rousseff to the Senate, which will now decide whether to open a trial. They got there after five hours of voting.

Wild cheering erupted from the opposition at the 342nd vote, countered by furious jeering from Rousseff allies in a snapshot of the radical and bitter mood consuming Brazil just four months before Rio de Janeiro hosts the Olympics.

Outside Congress, where tens of thousands of people were watching giant TV screens, the split was echoed on a mass scale — with opposition supporters partying and Rousseff loyalists in despair.

“I am happy, happy, happy. I spent a year demonstrating in hope that Dilma would be brought down,” said retiree Maristela de Melo, 63.

Several thousand police stood by and the rival camps were separated by a long metal wall.

If, as many expect, the Senate goes on to impeach the leftist president, Vice President Michel Temer — who abandoned Rousseff to become a key opponent — will assume power.

But opposition celebrations could be short lived, analysts say.

Temer would inherit a country wallowing in its deepest recession in decades and a dysfunctional political scene where Rousseff’s Workers’ Party vows revenge.

“It will not be easy” for Temer, said Andre Cesar, an independent political analyst. “It will be a nightmare.”

Senate next

Rouseff, 68, is accused of illegal accounting maneuvers to mask government shortfalls during her 2014 reelection. Many Brazilians also hold her responsible for the economic mess and a massive corruption scandal centered on state oil company Petrobras, a toxic record that has left her government with 10 percent approval ratings.

The president and her allies had lobbied frantically in a last-minute effort to turn the tide, with her mentor, the fiery ex-president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, flying back from his home in Sao Paulo to join the final assault.

Now the decision by the lower house moves the matter to the Senate, which is expected to vote in May on whether to open a trial. In case of a green light there, too — which experts also consider almost certain — Rousseff would step down for 180 days while the trial got under way.

If the Senate then voted by a two-thirds majority for impeachment, Rousseff would be ousted. Temer would stay on until elections in 2018.

A senior Rousseff ally said there would be no surrender.

“The coup plotters have won here in the house,” said Jose Guimaraes, leader of the Workers’ Party in the lower house of Congress.

“President Dilma (Rousseff’s) government recognizes this temporary defeat but that does not mean that the war is over,” Guimaraes said. “The fight will continue in the streets and in the Senate.”

 Street politics

Huge opposition rallies involving hundreds of thousands of people over the last months have played a big role in turning pressure against Rousseff into an unstoppable avalanche.

Anger on the streets could again play a role as the crisis enters ever higher stakes.

Sylvio Costa, who heads the specialist politics website Congresso en Foco, told AFP that Brazil’s troubles are only starting.

“Whoever loses will keep protesting in the streets,” he said. “What’s certain is that the crisis will not end today.”

However, on Sunday the crowds were peaceful so far.

In Brasilia, about 53,000 pro-impeachment demonstrators massed outside Congress, according to a police count. About 26,000 turned out on the pro-Rousseff side of the metal fence.

In Rio de Janeiro about 3,000 people each from the two sides demonstrated at separate time slots next to Copacabana beach.

The atmosphere even became festive, with a funk band singing in Rio and protesters blowing trumpets and vuvuzelas, as if at a football game, in Brasilia.

In Sao Paulo, the financial center, thousands of pro-impeachment supporters thronged the central Paulista Avenue, many of them in the country’s green and yellow national football shirts.

In Brasilia, psychologist Eric Gamaliel, 29, said he’d joined pro-Rousseff protesters because impeachment would mean “Brazil loses a lot. The world will lose a lot. It will be a step backwards.”

But farmer Silmar Borazio, 50, who made a 20-hour journey to the capital with pro-impeachment supporters, said Brazil needs change.

“The first thing that needs to happen is for Dilma to leave. We are tired of producing revenue and seeing that in the end nothing improves in the country and it gets stolen,” he said.

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April 18 2.00am Uganda time

Brazil holds breath as lawmakers vote on Rousseff impeachment
Brasília, Brazil | AFP |

Brazilian lawmakers voted Sunday on whether President Dilma Rousseff should face impeachment trial in a tense and at times circus-like showdown watched live by millions around the deeply divided country.

After nearly two hours of voting the opposition in the lower house of Congress in Brasilia had reached 171 votes — half way to its target of 342, or a two-thirds majority, which would send Rousseff to the Senate for the next stage of the process.

Most experts predicted that deputies would reach 342, but deputies from the most pro-government regions had yet to vote, meaning the result could still be close.

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April 18 1.00am Uganda Time

Brasília, Brazil | AFP |

Brazilian lawmakers voted Sunday on whether President Dilma Rousseff should face impeachment trial in a tense, at times circus-like showdown watched live by millions around the deeply divided country.

Months of rancorous debate that has seen Rousseff’s ruling coalition collapse and prompted huge street demonstrations came to a head in the capital Brasilia, where the lower house of Congress was deciding whether to authorize an impeachment trial in the Senate.

Deputies rose one by one to announce their vote, greeted by cheers and sometimes jeering from the rest of the chamber.

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Brazil lawmakers start voting on Rousseff impeachment

April 17, 11.30pm Uganda time

Brasília, Brazil | AFP |

Brazilian lawmakers began casting votes Sunday on whether President Dilma Rousseff should face impeachment.

The voting followed a raucous debate that transfixed the deeply divided nation. The opposition needs a total of 342 out of the 513 deputies in the lower house of Congress to authorize the trial.

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April 17, 11pm Uganda time

Brazil lawmakers open session ahead of impeachment vote

Brasília, Brazil | AFP |

Brazilian lawmakers have started the session to vote on impeachment of President Dilma Rousseff in a tension-filled showdown watched by millions around the deeply divided Latin American powerhouse.

Months of rancorous debate that have seen Rousseff’s ruling coalition collapse and prompted huge street demonstrations were coming to a head in the capital Brasilia where the lower house of Congress was to vote on authorizing an impeachment trial.

Latest estimates in major Brazilian newspapers were that pro-impeachment deputies in the house would succeed. They need 342 of the 513 votes, or two thirds of the house.

But Jose Guimaraes, a senior member of Rousseff’s Workers’ Party, said he remained optimistic in “the final stretch of a decisive battle.”

“Our latest estimate is that we have enough votes to defeat impeachment,” he told journalists. “The opposition is far from 342.”

Party leaders were to make final arguments at about 1700 GMT before voting starts. The whole procedure was to be aired live on television to the country of 204 million, the biggest in Latin America, and also on screens erected in city squares.

Demonstrators for and against Rousseff took to the streets ahead of the vote under the eye of riot police.

In Brasilia, a huge metal barrier was raised to separate rival protesters and in Rio de Janeiro, which is scrambling to organize the Olympics this August, the two sides were demonstrating at separate time slots on Copacabana beach.

So far, the atmosphere on the streets was peaceful, even festive, with a funk band singing in Rio and protesters blowing trumpets and vuvuzuelas, as if at a football game, in Brasilia.

Tired of Dilma

With numbers of protesters expected to reach hundreds of thousands later and passions at a boiling point there were fears of clashes.

“The situation will be critical. I’m afraid of a situation with serious conflict and things getting more aggressive,” said physics teacher Yuri Oliveira, 28, who took a 14-hour bus journey to the capital with other Rousseff supporters.

Psychologist Eric Gamaliel, 29, said he’d joined the protesters because impeachment would mean “Brazil loses a lot. The world will lose a lot. It will be a step backwards.”

But farmer Silmar Borazio, 50, who made a 20-hour journey to the capital with pro-impeachment supporters, said Brazil needs change after plunging into political chaos and its worst recession for decades.

“The first thing that needs to happen is for Dilma to leave. We are tired of producing revenue and seeing that in the end nothing improves in the country and it gets stolen,” he said.

In Rio, hundreds of Rousseff supporters gathered at the beach which will host several Olympic events, shouting “There will be no coup!”

“There won’t be a coup, there’ll be a fight,” one woman dressed in a red Workers’ Party shirt shouted.

In Sao Paulo, the financial center, pro-impeachment supporters massed in the central Paulista avenue, many of them in the country’s green and yellow national football shirts.

Last minute bargaining

Rousseff, 68, is accused of illegal accounting maneuvers to mask government shortfalls during her 2014 reelection. Many Brazilians also hold her responsible for the economic mess and a massive corruption scandal centered on state oil company Petrobras, a toxic record that has left her government with 10 percent approval ratings.

The president and her allies lobbied frantically in a last-minute effort to turn a tide that appeared to be going against the country’s first female president. Her mentor, the fiery ex-president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, flew back from his home in Sao Paulo to join the final assault.

If she can prevent the opposition reaching 342 votes Sunday, she will escape, even if opposition leaders warn they will quickly launch a new impeachment attempt.

Most experts think the vote will pass.

If so, then the Senate will vote, probably in May, whether to open a trial. In case of a yes vote, which experts also consider likely, then Rousseff would step down for 180 days.

During this period she’d be replaced by her vice president Michel Temer, who has emerged as a leader of the impeachment drive. If the Senate then ended the trial with a two thirds majority in favor of ejecting her, Temer would stay on until elections in 2018.

Sylvio Costa, who heads the specialist politics website Congresso en Foco, told AFP that Rousseff was nearly sure to go, but that more trouble lies ahead.

“Whoever loses will keep protesting in the streets,” he said. “What’s certain is that the crisis will not end today.”

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