Brazil President Rousseff seeks allies as impeachment vote looms

A long recession and huge corruption scandal have pushed the government to the brink of collapse, exacerbated last week when the powerful PMDB party ditched her for the opposition.

By: AFP | Brasilia | Published: April 6, 2016 8:41 am
Brazil, Dilma Rousseff, Rousseff impeachment, Brazil president impeachment Brazillian President Dilma Rousseff

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff has said she would not reshuffle her cabinet until after a congressional impeachment vote as she fights for her political survival.

Abandoned by her main coalition partner, Rousseff is racing to secure enough votes in Congress to block the lower house from sending her to face impeachment in the senate. A long recession and huge corruption scandal have pushed the government to the brink of collapse, exacerbated last week when the powerful PMDB party ditched her for the opposition.

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In a country teeming with dozens of political parties, ministerial posts and other government jobs have become key bargaining chips in Rousseff’s negotiations to save her presidency. But the leftist leader said she would not reshuffle her cabinet before the lower house vote, expected in mid-April.

“The (presidential) palace does not plan to carry out any ministerial restructuring before a vote in the Chamber,” she told journalists yesterday. “We won’t touch anything for now.” Rousseff’s chief of staff had said last week a reshuffle was imminent. But newspaper O Globo reported that the president’s camp was reluctant to move too soon from fear that supposed new allies could betray her and vote to impeach anyway.

Rousseff’s critics accuse her of manipulating the government’s accounts to boost public spending during her 2014 re-election campaign and hiding the depth of the recession. Attorney General Jose Eduardo Cardozo lambasted the case against her Monday in final arguments before a congressional committee tasked with recommending whether to impeach.

Cardozo accused the president’s opponents of violating the constitution and seeking to exact revenge for their own legal woes in a spiraling graft scandal centered on state oil company Petrobras. Rousseff, 68, needs at least 172 abstentions or votes against impeachment in the lower house. The PMDB, a centrist juggernaut that had long been an awkward partner for her Workers’ Party (PT), has 69 seats in the lower house and 18 in the 82-member Senate, where a two-thirds vote in an impeachment trial would remove the president from office.

Rousseff has been sending out her scandal-tainted but heavy-hitting predecessor and mentor, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, to lobby on her behalf, courting small centrist parties with promises of ministerial posts vacated by the PMDB.

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