Thu, Apr 14, 2016 - Page 1 News List

Rousseff brands No. 2 a ‘traitor’ ahead of ballot

AFP, BRASILIA

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff gestures to students and teachers at the Planalto Palace in Brasilia on Tuesday.

Photo: EPA

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff took off the gloves on Tuesday, branding her vice president a traitor and coup-plotter ahead of an impeachment vote in the Brazilian Congress, with a party once in the ruling coalition set to cast a ballot against her.

In a blistering speech, Rousseff, 68, said: “If there were any doubts about my reporting that a coup is under way, there can’t be now.”

Referring to Monday’s leak of an audio recording in which Brazilian Vice President Michel Temer practiced the speech he would make if Rousseff is impeached, the president said: “The conspirator’s mask has slipped.”

“We are living in strange and worrying times, times of a coup, and of pretending and betrayal of trust,” she said in the capital, Brasilia. “Yesterday, they used the pretense of a leak to give the order for the conspiracy.”

Rousseff is in the final stretch of a bruising attempt to save her presidency from impeachment on charges that she illegally manipulated government accounts to mask the effects of recession during her 2014 re-election.

Temer, who will take over if Rousseff is impeached, countered that a war was being waged against him on both a personal and professional level.

“I’m not waging war, I’m defending myself,” he told Globo News.

However, making it clear he was ready to step into Rousseff’s shoes, Temer, 75, added: “Without being pretentious, but with much modesty, I must say that I have a lot of experience in public life.”

After a congressional committee voted to recommend Rousseff’s ouster in chaotic and bad-tempered scenes late on Monday, the stage was set for a weekend showdown in the full lower house.

Deputies are due to start debating tomorrow, with a decisive vote on Sunday, officials said.

“Voting will begin on Sunday at 2pm and we calculate that the result will be late that evening,” a spokesman for the speaker’s office said.

If the house reaches a two-thirds majority, or 342 deputies, Rousseff’s case is to be sent to the Brazilian Senate. Anything less and Rousseff will walk away with her job.

The latest survey of the 513 deputies in the lower house by the Estadao daily showed 300 favoring impeachment and 125 opposed. That left the result in the hands of the 88 deputies still undecided or not stating a position.

Then, after hours of meetings, the Progressive Party announced it has decided to pull out of the ruling coalition and that most of its 47 lawmakers would vote for Rousseff to be impeached. It was one of the larger parties previously largely favorable to Rousseff.

Rousseff is hugely unpopular as Brazil sinks into its worst recession in decades. The political system has also been paralyzed by a huge corruption scandal at state oil company Petrobras.

In the latest arrest in the probe, dubbed Operation Car Wash, a former senator who helped lead an anti-corruption committee was charged on Tuesday with taking more than US$1.5 million in bribes to help corrupt companies avoid scrutiny.

Rousseff and her allies, led by former Brazilian president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, have fought back hard in the past few days, describing the impeachment drive as a thinly veiled coup plot.

“I would never have thought that my generation would see putschists trying to overthrow a democratically elected president,” Lula, who ruled from 2003 to 2011, told thousands of supporters on Monday in Rio de Janeiro.

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