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Rousseff nemesis vows no let-up in Brazil impeachment bid

Thursday, October 15, 2015 - 06:41
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The president of the Chamber of Deputies, Eduardo Cunha, speaks to journalists in the Congress. Brasília, Oct 14, 2015.

[BRASÍLIA] The controversial central figure in attempts to impeach Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff said Wednesday he will appeal a Supreme Court decision putting the brakes on the opposition's push to unseat her.

Congressional lower house speaker Eduardo Cunha told reporters his appeal would be lodged "by Friday." A powerful politician fighting allegations that he took a US$5-million bribe and hid money in Swiss bank accounts, Mr Cunha had been expected to open impeachment proceedings against Ms Rousseff as early as October 13.

That could have triggered a bruising battle sending Latin America's biggest country from its current mix of instability and economic paralysis into full-blown crisis.

However, the Supreme Court caused a hiccup by ruling against technicalities in Mr Cunha's procedural plan for setting the impeachment process in motion.

This gave Ms Rousseff - deeply unpopular less than a year into her second term, amid steep recession and a huge corruption scandal - a breather. She is scrambling to secure backers in Congress ahead of an eventual impeachment trial.

As speaker, Mr Cunha has the power to shelve or green-light impeachment requests.

Now the court-imposed delay has fueled feverish speculation in the capital Brasilia over how Mr Cunha will play his next cards.

According to reports in the Brazilian media, Mr Cunha might be seeking a deal or truce with Ms Rousseff.

Under this, Mr Cunha would supposedly hold off from launching impeachment proceedings in exchange for protection from his own opponents seeking to have him stripped of his speakership over the corruption allegations.

"The fact that I have to take decisions that some might see as a truce and others as a war is only a question of interpretation," Mr Cunha said in response to the rumor.

ROUSSEFF'S BRAVE FACE

Ms Rousseff, who has been found by a court to have fiddled the nation's accounts ahead of her reelection last year, on Tuesday called the mounting impeachment threats "a coup." But the opposition signaled on Wednesday there'd be no let up in its drive against the unpopular president, saying it would file a new impeachment request with Mr Cunha.

This time the allegations will state that Ms Rousseff's illegal accounting maneuvers not only took place in 2014 but also in her current term - a key point if those charges are to be used for impeachment.

Ms Rousseff put on a brave face Wednesday, traveling to Brazil's biggest city, Sao Paulo, and calling on the country to confront its economic challenges.

"Today we are passing through a period of difficulties. This period of difficulties obliges us to make efforts, to take measures, to tighten the belt a bit," she said.

But Ms Rousseff also underlined that she would not see any damage done to the massive homes-for-the-poor programme launched by her leftist Workers' Party - a key element in her government's dwindling support base.

"We will not stop guaranteeing" the program, she said.

Earlier, reports emerged in the Brazilian media of a warning by the top army general that the political and economic turmoil threatens to turn into a "social crisis."

AFP