UPDATE 4-Brazil Senate presses on with impeachment process, rejects annulment – Reuters

(Adds Senate moving forward with impeachment process)

By Anthony Boadle and Silvio Cascione

BRASILIA May 9 Brazil’s Senate pressed ahead
with impeachment proceedings against President Dilma Rousseff on
Monday, rejecting a surprise decision by the acting speaker of
the lower house to annul a key vote in the process.

The ruling by Senate head Renan Calheiros to push forward
put the upper house at odds with the interim leader of the House
of Deputies, Waldir Maranhao, who upended the process by
announcing Monday he was annulling last month’s impeachment vote
in the lower chamber.

The Senate’s decision raises the possibility that the
Supreme Court may have to step in to untangle the constitutional
mess. The court, which has been reluctant to intervene
decisively in the impeachment process, rejected on Monday some
requests to overturn Maranhao’s annulment.

Maranhao, who took over the speaker’s role only last week,
argued in his decision that there were procedural flaws in a
lower house vote on April 17 that approved the impeachment
charges and the chamber would need to vote again.

His decision, which caught off-guard investors betting on a
more business-friendly government taking power imminently,
roiled Brazilian financial markets.

However, markets quickly pared their losses as investors bet
the move would delay rather than prevent Rousseff’s removal from
office, given her weak support in Congress.

Calheiros told a plenary session of the upper house that he
would proceed with a vote in the Senate on whether to put
Rousseff on trial for breaking budgetary laws. A Senate
committee recommended on Friday that the president should be

“To accept this playing with democracy would make me
personally complicit in delaying this process,” Calheiros said.
“At the end of the day, it’s not for the head of the Senate to
say whether this process is fair or not, it’s up to the full


The development further complicates a political crisis that
is fueling Brazil’s worst recession in decades.

An ongoing investigation into a massive kickback scheme at
state-run oil company Petrobras has ensnared dozens
of top politicians and seen CEOs from Brazil’s biggest
construction firms jailed for paying billions in bribes in
return for bloated building contracts.

Last week, Rousseff was for the first time caught up in the
Petrobras case, when the prosecutor general requested the
Supreme Court’s permission to investigate her for allegedly
obstructing the investigation.

Until Monday’s move, it had been widely expected that the
full Senate would vote on Wednesday to place Rousseff on trial,
which would result in her immediate suspension for up to six
months. In that case, Vice President Michel Temer would step in
as interim president, remaining in the post until elections in
2018 if she were found guilty and removed permanently.

Rousseff has steadfastly denied any wrongdoing in the
Petrobras case or having committed any crime that would warrant
her impeachment. She has vowed from the beginning of the
impeachment process to fight it by all means legally possible.

It was not clear whether she had any idea that Monday’s
stunning turn of events was in the works.


The bombshell came from the man that last week replaced
Eduardo Cunha, the speaker who had launched the impeachment
process but was removed by the Supreme Court on corruption

Maranhao had broken with his center-right Progressive Party
and voted against impeachment in last month’s lower house vote,
which Rousseff and her Workers Party had lost badly.

In a statement on Monday, Maranhao said the impeachment
process should be returned by the Senate so that the lower house
can vote again. Citing irregularities such as party leaders
instructing their members which way to vote, he said a new vote
would take place within five sessions after the case was
returned by the Senate.

“This should have no legal value whatsoever,” said Ives
Gandra Martins, a constitutional lawyer based in Sao Paulo. “The
impeachment process is no longer even in the lower house and
there are no grounds … to annul it.

“The Senate now has the process and will continue to move
ahead with it unless they find some reason to vote it down of
their own,” he said.

Rousseff, speaking at an event in the presidential palace,
appeared surprised at the news of Maranhao’s move, which came as
she was speaking. The crowd broke out into wild cheers, but
Rousseff cautioned them.

“It’s not official and I do not know the consequences, so
let’s be cautious,” she said to supporters.

(Additional reporting by Maria Carolina Marcello and Paulo
Prada; Writing by Brad Brooks and Daniel Flynn; Editing by
Frances Kerry and Mary Milliken)


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