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By Lise Alves, Senior Contributing Reporter

SÃO PAULO, BRAZIL – Opposition leaders had little time to celebrate winning the chance to head a special committee in Brazil’s Chamber of Deputies which will decide whether or not to start impeachment proceedings against Brazilian leader Dilma Rousseff. Hours after the turbulent vote, the country’s Supreme Court decided to suspend any action by the committee until at least next Wednesday (December 16th).

Brasilia, Chamber of Deputies, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Brazil News
Scuffle at Brazil’s Chamber of Deputies during vote to create special committee to analyze impeachment process against President Dilma Rousseff, photo by Luiz Macedo/Chamber of Deputies.

According to Supreme Court Justice Luiz Edson Fachin, the decision was made to avoid actions which could later be found invalid by the Supreme Court and hinder the entire impeachment process.

Justice Fachin also questioned the secret ballot process, stating that Chamber rules do not call for secret ballots in these cases. Tuesday night’s decision halts the creation of the special committee until the Supreme Court votes on its legality.

The announcement came after hours of heated discussions and scuffles at Brazil’s Chamber of Deputies, with Congressional representatives of different political views, physically and verbally attacking one another and electronic voting machines being destroyed.

Chamber President, Eduardo Cunha, was severely criticized by Rousseff allies for calling for the vote to be secret, thus allowing those representatives from allied parties who defended the impeachment to vote for it without having to fear party sanctions. Representatives also questioned the fact that microphones in the Chamber floor were turned off, by Cunha’s orders, so that those against the proceedings could not speak out.

Representatives from Rousseff’s PT (Worker’s Party) and the PC do B (Brazil’s Communist Party) reacted to the secret ballot decision by damaging three of the fourteen electronic voting equipment placed on the Chamber’s floor for the vote. Verbal accusations and physical attacks were recorded by local TV stations as representatives from both sides, lined up to cast their ballots. Cunha said he was surprised and disappointed at his colleagues’ reactions.

“There were unnecessary incidents, vandalism, aggressions, things that (TV) images show. Something has to be done,” said Cunha to reporters gathered outside the Chamber floor. “One can not permit that an uproar of this nature affect the normal legislative process,” he added.

In the end, the ‘alternative’ group of representatives, made up of pro-impeachment legislators received 272 votes while the group created by party leaders, and pro-Rousseff received 199 votes.

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