Former Brazilian President Lula da Silva has thrown his support behind current leader Dilma Rousseff, who is facing a Congress vote on her future. Rousseff is accused of manipulating government finances.
Leaping to Rousseff's defense on Thursday, former president da Silva said he was "outraged" by the country's current political and economic crisis, adding that his successor was "making immeasurable efforts to push through (economic) reforms."
He hit out at House of Deputies Speaker Eduardo Cunha for allowing impeachment proceedings against Brazil's first woman president to open.
Cunha cited a court's finding that Rousseff's administration violated fiscal responsibility laws by using cash from state-run banks to fill budget gaps and pay for social programs.
She is accused of manipulating the finances of Latin America's largest economy to the tune of about 612 million euros ($668 million). The president, who's been in office since 2011, denies any wrongdoing.
Rousseff's chief of staff, Jaques Wagner, said the impeachment request lacked legal basis and that government would appeal to the Supreme Court to overturn the application.
Leadership in turmoil
The 67-year-old is expected to narrowly survive the opposition attempt to remove her from office. Her party estimates that they already have the firm support of 140 lawmakers in the lower house - shy of the 172 votes needed to block the process.
Even if proceedings get under way, they are not expected to reach a vote in the lower house before February before being sent to the Senate, which could take a further six months.
Still, the additional scrutiny is expected to further paralyze a government already struggling with political gridlock. Brazil's leaders are desperate to restore economic growth as the country faces its deepest downturn since the Great Depression.
A major kickback scandal at state-run oil company Petrobras has also cast a shadow over the entire Brazilian business community.
"This will have a negative impact on the real economy," said Carlos Thadeu de Freitas, chief economist at the National Confederation of Commerce and a former central bank director.
If the impeachment proceedings do pass the House, Rousseff would be temporarily removed from office for up to six months. While her vice president fills her shoes, the Senate would then decide whether Rousseff should be permanently removed.
mm/rc (AP, Reuters)