Brazil president warns of 'putsch' ahead of impeachment vote

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff said today she was the victim of a coup as her allies horse-traded frantically for enough votes to ride out an impeachment drive.

PTI| Updated: Mar 31, 2016, 01:30 AM IST

Brasilia: Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff said today she was the victim of a coup as her allies horse-traded frantically for enough votes to ride out an impeachment drive.

"Impeachment is a putschist process that is out of line with the country's trajectory since returning to democracy," Rousseff said in a speech in Brasilia, referring to the end of Brazil's two decades military dictatorship in 1985.

A months-long crisis reducing Latin America's biggest country to political paralysis ahead of the Rio Olympics deepened yesterday when Rousseff's Workers' Party lost its main coalition partner, the centrist PMDB.

That left Rousseff isolated as she tries to survive impeachment in Congress against a background of punishing recession and a corruption scandal at state oil company Petrobras that has snared a cross-section of the country's elite.

A poll today from Ibope showed approval for Rousseff's government remains at around record lows of 10 per cent, while her personal approval rating was 14 per cent.

Rousseff faces impeachment over allegedly illegal budgetary manipulations to cover the extent of Brazil's recession during her re-election campaign in 2014.

According to Rousseff, she has broken no laws that meet the standards for impeachment, meaning that the campaign against her "is a coup."

The potentially lengthy process is already underway in a preliminary commission and the lower house of Congress could vote as early as mid-April on whether to send the case to the Senate for full trial.

To survive, Rousseff needs 172 of the 513 votes in the lower house, or one-third of the deputies. Until only recently that seemed doable, despite her massive unpopularity and the intense hostility of opponents in the increasingly divided country.

With the PMDB's exit, the math gets far dicier, analysts say.

"The likelihood of impeachment has greatly increased," said political analyst Michael Freitas Mohallem of the Fundacao Getulio Vargas in Rio de Janeiro.

Loyalists put a brave face on Tuesday's debacle, with Chief of Staff Jaques Wagner calling it an opportunity to "renew" the government.

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