, BRASILIA, Brazil, Apr 17 – Brazil’s lower house of Congress is set to vote Sunday on whether to authorize impeachment of President Dilma Rousseff, bringing to a head a crisis that has paralyzed and divided Latin America’s biggest nation.
Police were out in force across major cities in preparation for what were expected to be large rallies of both Rousseff supporters and opponents, with fears that the bitter atmosphere could fuel violence.
In the capital Brasilia, Rousseff, 68, and her allies lobbied frantically in an 11th hour effort to turn a tide that appeared to be going against the country’s first female president.
The opposition needs 342 votes of the 513-seat lower house of Congress — or two thirds — to send Rousseff to the Senate for a trial that could end in her being forced from office. Anything less and Rousseff would record a famous victory.
Rousseff is accused of illegal accounting maneuvers to mask government shortfalls during her 2014 reelection. Many Brazilians also hold her responsible for the country’s worst recession in more than a generation, and a massive corruption scandal centered on state oil company Petrobras.
– Demonstrations –
Latest estimates showed the pro-impeachment camp had amassed enough support by late Saturday. Folha de Sao Paulo and Estadao dailies both put the number of favorable votes at 347.
However supporters of the leftist president continued to insist that they would scrape through.
With deputies bargaining loyalty in exchange for government posts and an unknown number of them simply hedging their bets for as long as possible, it was possible that decisions could change.
Already late Saturday protesters — dressed in the red of Rousseff’s Workers’ Party or draped in Brazil’s yellow and green colors if from the opposition — gathered in Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo and Brasilia.
During the voting Sunday, as many as 300,000 demonstrators were expected to descend on the esplanade outside Congress where a long metal barricade was erected to keep opposing camps apart.
If Rousseff is defeated Sunday, the Senate is expected to vote to open a trial, probably in May, at which point she would have to stand down for 180 days while her vice president turned opponent, Michel Temer, becomes interim president. Another two-thirds vote in the Senate would oust her.