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Congressional Panel clears way to impeach Brazilian President Rousseff


The effort to impeach President Dilma Rousseff cleared a congressional panel on Monday, setting up a cliffhanger vote on her ouster in the coming days in Brazil’s Chamber of Deputies.

Tempers flared ahead of the 38-27 vote, with members of Congress screaming at each other during the nationally televised proceedings. The panel was charged with investigating the accusations against Ms. Rousseff and deciding if it was warranted to recommend impeachment to the Chamber of Deputies, the lower house of the National Congress.

Ms. Rousseff’s supporters are now scrambling ahead of the floor vote in the lower house, where they hope to prevent two-thirds of the 513 deputies from voting for impeachment.

The vote, which could take place as early as this weekend, points to a volatile new stage in Brazil’s political crisis. If the impeachment measure isapproved in the full lower house, the matter would then go before the Senate, which would decide whether to put Ms. Rousseff on trial. If the Senate opts to move forward, Ms. Rousseff would then be suspended and replaced with the vice president, Michel Temer.

Ms. Rousseff and her top aides argue that the impeachment proceedings amount to a coup. Unable to seek her removal on corruption charges, her opponents are trying to impeach her on a claim of budgetary manipulation involving the use of funds from state banks to cover budget gaps. (Ms. Rousseff is rare among major political figures in Brazil in that she has not faced accusations of illicit personal enrichment.)

“History does not forgive acts of violence against democracies,” José Eduardo Cardozo, the solicitor general, said in Ms. Rousseff’s defense on Monday, describing the impeachment panel’s deliberations as “the coup of 2016.”

While the measure was widely expected to clear the panel, where votes were stacked against Ms. Rousseff, the outcome of the floor vote in the full chamber remains far from certain. New twists are emerging almost on a daily basis, including a request from the Supreme Federal Tribunal, Brazil’s high court, that Congress also consider a petition to impeach Mr. Temer, the vice president.

A 15-minute recording by Mr. Temer, which appeared to have been intended to be released after a full impeachment vote in the lower house, stunned Brazil’s political establishment on Monday. In the recording, Mr. Temer triumphantly calls for a government of “national salvation.”

Mr. Temer’s office said the recording, which was sent to lawmakers by the centrist Brazilian Democratic Movement Party to which he belongs, had been released by accident. Ms. Rousseff’s office quickly seized on the recording, describing it as an effort to destabilize the government.

“The mask of the conspirator has fallen,” Ricardo Berzoini, a top aide of Ms. Rousseff, told reporters.

Ms. Rousseff remains widely unpopular as Brazil endures its worst economic downturn in decades. Still, public skepticism abounds in regards to the political leaders seeking to replace her, reflecting broad loathing for Brazil’s political class, which is engulfed in graft scandals.

Support for impeaching Ms. Rousseff slipped to 61 percent in a new public opinion survey by Datafolha, a prominent Brazilian polling company. The poll, conducted on April 7 and April 8 in interviews with 2,779 people, had a margin of sampling error of plus or minus two percentage points.

Just three weeks earlier, Datafolha had found that 68 percent of Brazilians favored impeaching the president.

Ahead of the vote in the Chamber of Deputies, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, the former president and founder of the governing Workers’ Party, has embarked on a frenetic effort to shore up support among legislators for Ms. Rousseff, his beleaguered successor.

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