Brazil Senate probe says Rousseff must face trial

05 May 2016


Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff should be put on trial for possible removal from office, a senator selected as a fact-finder by a special Senate commission considering her impeachment has recommended.

The Senate's website said Sen Antonio Anastasia made the recommendation for a Senate trial in a 126-page report he presented to the 21-member commission yesterday.

Rousseff is facing impeachment over allegations that her administration violated fiscal laws by shifting around government funds to plug holes in the budget. Her critics say it was done to prop up flagging support before elections.

Brazil's first female president insists the Senate procedure amounts to an attempted coup against her.

The full Senate is scheduled to decide whether to try Rousseff in a vote next Wednesday. If a majority of senators, or 41 out of 81, vote in for impeachment, Rousseff will be suspended from office for up to 180 days as a full impeachment trial goes ahead. Vice President Michel Temer would become the interim president.

Meanwhile, Brazil's attorney general has asked the country's highest court to authorise an investigation into Rousseff over allegations of obstruction of justice, according to Brazilian media.

The country's top newspapers and the Globo television network said late Tuesday that Rousseff was among 30 people targeted by Attorney General Rodrigo Janot's probe requests. Others include former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and Solicitor General Jose Eduardo Cardozo as well as opposition politician Aecio Neves, who lost to Rousseff in the 2014 presidential race, and house speaker Eduardo Cunha.

The attorney general's office, which needs the Supreme Court's permission to investigate legislators and high-level government officials, declined to comment on the reports.

The media stories said Rousseff is suspected of trying to undermine the snowballing investigation into corruption at the state-run oil company Petrobras by appointing her predecessor, Silva as her chief of staff this year. Silva's nomination was later suspended.

The newspaper O Globo in Rio de Janeiro reported that Janot's request accuses Silva of being the ringleader behind the scheme that saw big construction firms pay bribes in exchange for inflated contracts with Petrobras, with some of the money ending up in the coffers of political parties across the ideological spectrum. The case has already ensnared leading politicians and businessmen.

"This criminal organisation could never have functioned for so many years and in such a wide and aggressive manner within the federal government without ex-President Lula's taking part in it," the newspaper quoted Janot's petition as saying.

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