Impeachment knocks on Dilma Rousseff’s door
Brazilian legislators decide Dilma Rousseff’s political future.
The signs of corruption in the Rousseff administration are undeniable. Federal police and national prosecutors have found enough proof to open investigations against corporate leaders, politicians, congressmen and even the former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva. So, why not a full investigation on Dilma Rousseff’s actions regarding her administration’s accounting practices?
Brazil has, for the moment, more questions than answers, but the most important, the political fate of President Dilma Rousseff, will begin to be resolved this week.
The president of the Chamber of Deputies, Eduardo Cunha, from the opposition Party of the Brazilian Democratic Movement (PMDB) has promised to decide on Tuesday whether to accept the request to open impeachment proceedings against the president for alleged irregularities during the 2014 electoral campaign.
Cunha also faces opposition leaders demanding his own dismissal after it was revealed he had secret, undeclared bank accounts in Switzerland. An investigation showed that money was diverted to one of his accounts from a contract awarded to Petrobras by the country of Benin whose value is estimated at $34.5 million.
The Speaker of the House has said that he would only accept the process of impeachment if it is supported on technical grounds. To do so would require that the alleged irregularities committed by Rousseff had occurred in her current term, which began in 2015.
The opposition evaluates adding to the process an accusation filed by a former member of the PT Helio Bicudo, who argues that the government committed tax fraud in 2015 as it allegedly did in 2014, a charge that has already led to the Government to face a legal proceeding in Court.
Attorney Julio Marcelo de Oliveira also alleges that the crime occurred during the first half of this year. His argument is that the government of Rousseff delayed payment of $40 billion for assistance programs, according to research conducted by local media.
The leader of Congress has two options. Make it clear that he has broken up with Rousseff and adopt a confrontational posture or assume a less confrontational role to have the PT protect him should an impeachment proceeding be considered against him.
In the second scenario, circulating in the Brazilian political world in recent weeks, Cunha would reject all applications for opening of impeachment. They are 10 in total. If he did so, Cunha would avoid a confrontation with Rousseff and the opposition could, as an interpretation of the rules of procedure of the House, appeal the decision of the President in Parliament. In this way it would only need a simple majority to initiate impeachment proceedings against the president: 257 parliamentarians.
After opening the process, a committee would investigate any irregularities and then present their findings back to the House which would then decide for or against Rousseff’s departure from office. The vote in support for impeachment must have at least two thirds of the House: 342 deputies.
Nothing assures the president that 180 parliamentarians who are still loyal to her will maintain their position in case of reaching this stage. First, because popular pressure can change their positions, and second, because they might require more power to maintain their support and the president just made a reform in the ministries to reduce the chances that her opponents will attempt to blackmail her.
If passed in the House, the impeachment request would move to the Senate, where Rousseff has the support of President Renan Calheiros and a less volatile loyal base. But at this point, political analysts say that popular pressure would be unsustainable.
The president met Monday with senior ministers to assess what their counterattack plan will be. Rousseff has also formed a team of renowned jurists to confront the arguments for impeachment. Her strategy is to appeal to the Supreme Federal Court in case any request for impeachment is opened. The argument is that, in any hypothesis, the opening of an impeachment could only be made with the approval of two thirds of the House.