Brazil′s chief of staff warns of ′dangerous′ precedent in Rousseff impeachment | News | DW | 23.03.2016
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Brazil's chief of staff warns of 'dangerous' precedent in Rousseff impeachment

The president's senior aide has urged caution amid mass protests and impeachment proceedings aimed at ousting Rousseff. A corruption scandal engulfing Brazil's political landscape also took another dramatic turn.

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff's chief of staff on Wednesday said ousting her would set a "dangerous" precedent for unpopular governments to be toppled in the future.

"They are planting a dangerous seed in Brazil," said jacques Wagner, referring to attempts to force the president out of office.

"Without the rule of law and constitutional guarantees, such as the right of defense and presumption of innocence, there is no democracy," Wagner added.

On Tuesday, Rousseff defended her presidency amid mass protests calling for her to step down, saying she would "never resign."

"I committed no crime that could justify the interruption of my mandate under the constitution," Rousseff said in a speech at the presidential palace. "There is just one name for that: a coup," she said.

Opposition lawmakers are pushing impeachment proceedings against Rousseff, accusing her of breaking budget rules in the lead up to her re-election in 2014.

The president also called on Brazil's top court to remain impartial after Supreme Court Justice Gilmar Mendes blocked ex-President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva from being sworn in to Rousseff's cabinet.

The president's decision, however, was viewed by critics as a move to shield Lula from prosecution - after he was named in a kickback scheme connected to the oil giant Petrobas. Lula, who championed Dilma's rise to power in 2010, denies accepting bribes from construction companies implicated in the scandal.

Wagner (left) served as defense minister before becoming Rousseff's chief of staff in October 2015

Wagner (left) served as defense minister before becoming Rousseff's chief of staff in October 2015

Corruption reloaded

Meanwhile, Brazil's largest engineering firm Odebrecht announced on Tuesday that it would cooperate with the justice department after investigators raided its offices earlier this week.

Odebrecht stands accused of involvement in a "professional" bribe-paying network connected to the "Car Wash Operation," the title given to the Petrobas kickback scheme that has rocked Brazil's political landscape.

The construction company said it is seeking a plea bargain with the justice department, which could shed light on politicians' involvement in the scheme.

Chief of Staff Wagner said on Wednesday that Odebrecht should pay for any crimes it committed, but should not be dismantled.

He also said companies currently involved in corruption probes should not have to stop working on projects connected to the summer Olympics.

Wagner also confirmed Sports Minister George Hilton resigned on Tuesday, with the opening ceremony scheduled for August 5 in Rio de Janeiro.

ls/msh (Reuters, EFE, AP)

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