By Lise Alves, Senior Contributing Reporter
SÃO PAULO, BRAZIL – The threat of impeachment loomed closer to Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff on Monday, as a special commission of the country’s lower house voted to approve a report recommending the ousting of the nation’s leader. The commission voted 38 to 27 to recommend impeachment proceedings be placed before the full Chamber of Deputies.
The vote by the Lower House is scheduled for this weekend. If two thirds of the Chamber votes for the impeachment, the President will automatically be suspended from her duties for up to 180 days, while the process passes through the Senate.
Workers’ Party (PT) officials tried to play down the loss Monday night. “The commission has just defeated us, 38 to 27,” said former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva to a crowd of approximately 50,000 in Rio de Janeiro, “but this does not mean anything. We have to keep in mind that Sunday it’s the (Lower House) Plenary. We have to talk to the representatives,” added Lula.
Local media has reported that the former President has spoken to several key allies and undecided representatives in the last few days to try to swing the votes towards a no-impeachment result. And Lula’s efforts may be rendering results, say market analysts. “First, while it still seems likely that Dilma’s government will at some point fall under the weight of allegations against it, the impeachment process has lost some momentum in recent weeks,” says Neil Shearing Chief Emerging Markets Economist at Capital Economics.
According to Shearing the loss of momentum is due to the fact that Rousseff’s probable replacement, Vice-President Michel Temer, has also been accused of money mismanagement of funds and the impeachment of the official is also being sought.
President Rousseff is accused of using loans from state-controlled banks to cover up a bigger deficit in the federal government’s budget in 2015. She is also accused of mismanagement of public funds.
The Rousseff Administration has strongly denied any wrongdoing, stating at times that the loans were used to pay for social welfare programs. Rousseff, along with other PT (Workers’ Party) leaders including former president Lula, are calling the impeachment process a coup of a democratically elected government.
Facing one of the worst recessions in recent history, millions of Brazilians have taken to the streets to protest against widespread corruption and to demand that the PT party step down. Both pro-impeachment and pro-government demonstrators have promised to turnout in record numbers in Brasilia this weekend to pressure Congressman to vote their way.
Military police have already set up a structure to keep the two groups apart and away from the Congress lawn. Camping around the Congressional building has been prohibited and tight security measures are expected to be in place both in the capital and in major Brazilian cities as Congressional Representatives cast their vote.
If impeached, Rousseff will be the second Brazilian leader to be ousted from the Presidency since Brazil’s return to democracy, in the 1980s. In 1992 President Fernando Collor de Mello was impeached on charges of corruption.