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Brazil’s Rousseff mounts late bid to block impeachment

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff 's grip on power is slipping in a political and economic crisis rocking Latin America's biggest country
AFP

Brasília (AFP) – Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff launched a late bid Thursday to escape an impeachment vote, seeking a court injunction to halt the proceedings after key allies deserted her.

The 68-year-old leftist leader’s grip on power was slipping in a political and economic crisis rocking Latin America’s biggest country less than four months before it hosts the Olympic Games.

Rousseff had been scratching around for support in the lower house of congress, which is scheduled to vote Sunday on whether to move forward with impeachment proceedings.

On Thursday, she launched a fresh line of defense. Her government’s top lawyer Jose Eduardo Cardozo filed an injunction to halt the weekend’s proceedings.

Rousseff is fighting to save her presidency over charges that she illegally manipulated government accounts to mask the effects of recession during her 2014 re-election and in 2015.

The government’s appeal alleged procedural failings in the case against Rousseff, saying it had violated her right to a defense.

“Evidence unrelated to the case has been included in the process, such as matters related to President Dilma (Rousseff)’s previous term,” Cardozo said in the filing.

He called the impeachment drive “a truly kafkaesque process in which the accused is unable to know precisely what she is accused of or why.”

Rousseff has vowed not to back down but repeated an offer to forge a political compromise with opponents if she survives the key vote on Sunday.

“The government will fight until the last minute of the second half… to foil this coup attempt,” she said in an interview published by various media.

– Impeachment votes –

Rousseff on Thursday held a meeting with ministers and some of the lawmakers still loyal to her, a presidential source said, shortly before Cardozo announced his appeal.

Several of the parties in Rousseff’s coalition have jumped ship, starting with the PSDB of her vice president Michel Temer.

Scores of lawmakers have turned against Rousseff, saying they will vote for impeachment.

That has brought the total number of lawmakers who could vote against her on Sunday ever closer to the two-thirds majority needed to pass the impeachment motion up to the Senate.

Leading newspaper O Estado de Sao Paulo calculated that the number of lawmakers who have now decided to support impeachment has risen to 326 — just 16 short of the total needed to pass the motion.

Rousseff has branded Temer a traitor.

If the Senate in turn votes to open an impeachment trial, she would be suspended from office for 180 days. Temer would step into her place while the impeachment process runs its course.

Lawmakers who have yet to declare their position were facing fierce lobbying, including from Rousseff’s top ally and predecessor as president, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.

But he too faces pressure: the courts have suspended his appointment as Rousseff’s chief of staff over a corruption case against him, linked to a huge graft scandal at state oil company Petrobras.

The country has sunk meanwhile into its worst recession in decades.

Protesters for and against Rousseff have called for demonstrations this weekend in Brasilia. Security forces have put up fences to protect government buildings from possible disturbances.

The president of the International Olympic Committee’s coordination commission said Wednesday that preparations for the Games in August are running on time despite the political crisis.

The IOC “is working really hard to make sure that the deadlines are respected,” Nawal El Moutawakel told a news conference in Rio de Janeiro, where the Games will run from August 5 to 21.

“We are waiting for Sunday to see how the situation develops.”

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