Brasília, Brazil, Dec 3 – Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff’s party was appealing Thursday to the Supreme Court to block impeachment proceedings, in the first counter-blow of a battle plunging Latin America’s biggest country into political turmoil.
The morning after the speaker of the lower house of Congress triggered the impeachment process against Rousseff on grounds that she illegally manipulated government accounts, her Workers’ Party sprang into action.
The leftist party’s strong stand, coming after a defiant and angry statement from Rousseff late Wednesday, signaled the start of a political fight that experts say will paralyze a country already suffering from a deepening recession and a spiraling corruption scandal centered on state oil giant Petrobras.
However, reflecting the business community’s hope that impeachment would end months of political drift, the Sao Paulo stock market leaped more than four percent on opening.
– Accusing the accuser –
Paulo Pimenta, a Workers’ Party deputy, told AFP complaints were being filed that Speaker Eduardo Cunha is using the impeachment drive as an attempt to save his own career after being accused of corruption.
“We are studying a series of measures that aim to block the process,” Pimenta said.
The Supreme Court appeal will charge Cunha with “abuse of power and using the legislative power structure to defend himself.”
As speaker, Cunha alone has authority to accept or turn down petitions for the president’s impeachment and late Wednesday he accepted one filed by several lawyers alleging that Rousseff used illegal methods to mask holes in the government budget.
Cunha is fighting for his political life after having been accused of taking millions of dollars in bribes and hiding money in Swiss bank accounts. He now faces being stripped by the lower house ethics committee of his speaker’s post.
– Committee to decide –
Analysts say the whole impeachment process — if it passes the many legal hurdles along the way — could take as long as six or seven months.
Rousseff said Wednesday she is confident she will survive the assault and her allies told O Globo newspaper that they have enough votes to block an impeachment vote.
“I have not committed one illegal act,” Rousseff said on national television late Wednesday.
“My past and my present attest to my moral probity and my irreproachable commitment to the law.”
However, with Rousseff deeply unpopular and recession threatening to turn into depression, analysts say she cannot be sure public support.
Cunha was expected later Thursday to order the first step in the long impeachment procedure — the creation of a special committee featuring representatives of all the parties in the lower house.