Brazil's ex-president Cardoso backs Rousseff impeachment

[RIO DE JANEIRO] Brazil's former president Fernando Henrique Cardoso said Sunday he supports impeaching President Dilma Rousseff, calling it the will of the people.

Mr Cardoso was Brazil's president from 1995 to 2003 and is a leading figure in the PSDB, a centrist party opposed to Ms Rousseff's left-wing Workers' Party.

He said anti-government protests last Sunday that drew three million people, according to police, showed Brazilians are demanding Ms Rousseff's ouster.

"The streets cried out, 'Resign! Stop! Impeachment!'" he told newspaper O Estado de Sao Paulo.

68 per cent of Brazilians support impeaching Ms Rousseff, up eight per centage points from February, according to a poll released Saturday.

Brazil's first woman president is struggling to fight off a painful recession, political isolation and an explosive corruption scandal at state oil company Petrobras.

The impeachment case, which is unrelated to the Petrobras scandal, is based on allegations she manipulated the government's accounts to boost public spending during her 2014 re-election campaign, and again in 2015 to mask the depth of the recession.

Mr Cardoso, 84, had in the past voiced doubts on the wisdom of impeaching Ms Rousseff, but said his opinion had changed "little by little." "With the government's incapacity to function today... I think the path to follow now is impeachment," he said.

He acknowledged the upheaval of removing the president midway through her second term would be "painful," but added: "Watching the decline of the economy and society is just as painful as impeachment." Ms Rousseff's position is all the more precarious as the Petrobras scandal appears to close in on her.

She does not face charges, but chaired the company during much of the period in which investigators say executives colluded with contractors to overbill Petrobras by billions of dollars, bribing politicians and parties along the way.

On Saturday, a former Ms Rousseff ally who is charged in the scandal, senator Delcidio Amaral, alleged the president "knew everything" about the scheme and used some of the proceeds to fund her 2010 and 2014 campaigns.

Ms Rousseff vehemently denied the accusation.

A congressional impeachment committee began proceedings Friday.

It is tasked with making a recommendation to the full lower house, where a vote by two-thirds of the 513 lawmakers would trigger an impeachment trial in the Senate.

In that event, Ms Rousseff would be suspended from her duties for up to 180 days. A two-thirds vote in the 81-member chamber would remove her from office.


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