LATIN AMERICA

Rousseff impeachment in doubt over alleged irregularities

Acting speaker of Brazil’s Congress suspends process, but Senate leader says Wednesday vote will go ahead

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff.FOTO: EFE | VÍDEO: EL PAÍS-QUALITY (reuters_live)

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The leader of Brazil’s Senate insisted on Monday night that the impeachment of President Dilma Rousseff will continue on Wednesday, despite the announcement by the acting speaker of Congress that the process be suspended due to alleged irregularities in the vote in the lower house on April 17.

The Senate had been expected to second Congress's decision to put Rousseff on trial on Wednesday for breaking budget laws, a move that would immediately suspend her from the president's job for the duration of a hearing that could last six months.

Vice President Michel Temer, who has been accused of playing a behind-the-scenes role in helping remove Rousseff from office, has already put together a new cabinet and was set to take over. But the decision by the acting speaker of Congress, Waldir Maranhão, has thrown doubts over the process.

Maranhão took over from Eduardo Cunha, who was removed from the post by the Supreme Court because he faces accusations of corruption. Maranhão, who voted against impeaching Rousseff in the April 17 vote, says there were serious irregularities, notably that political parties should not have recommended to their members whether or not to vote in favor of impeachment.

I’m being cautious. This is a difficult time. We have a tough battle ahead of us

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff

But Maranhão’s decision has come out of the blue, even surprising Rousseff, who was attending an official act when she learned of it. “I don’t have any information. I don’t know what the consequences will be. I’m being cautious. This is a difficult time. We have a tough battle ahead of us. I would ask members of Congress to stay calm in dealing with this,” she said on Monday evening.

Rousseff and her allies had already taken for granted that a simple majority of the 81 senators would approve her six-month removal from office during her trial, and that would likely end with her being removed from office.

Maranhão insists that Congress must now debate the alleged irregularities during the April 17 vote over the course of five sessions.

But Senate speaker Renán Calheiros, a member of the conservative PMDB along with Cunha and Temer, dismissed Maranhão’s decision as “anti-democratic nonsense”, saying the vote on Wednesday will go ahead as far as he is concerned.

 English version by Nick Lyne.

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