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Federal judge issues injunction to suspend Silva's return to office

Brazil's lower house of Congress has launched impeachment proceedings against President Dilma Rousseff. The move comes shortly after her predecessor, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, was sworn in as chief of staff.

Lawmakers established a 65-member committee on Thursday that will inquire about Rousseff's alleged mismanagement of state funds, a move that could lead to her impeachment.

The president is accused of manipulating accounts that enabled her to increase the amount of money she was able to spend while running for reelection in 2014.

The news comes the same day a federal judge issued an injunction against Rousseff's decision to make Silva her next chief of staff.

Accusations of corruption

The judge cited the risk that Silva's taking office would derail a judicial investigation. "In light of the risk of harming the free exercise of judicial power...I grant the request for an injunction to suspend the nomination of Mr. Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva," the judge wrote in his ruling, according to Reuters.

By joining his successor Dilma Rousseff's cabinet in a reshuffle, Lula da Silva appeared to have won himself legal immunity in a corruption investigation.

The case, known as Operation Car Wash, also involves the state-run oil company Petrobras.

State prosecutors in Sao Paulo have charged the former president with money laundering and fraud,

although Brazilian law dictates that senior political officials can only face trial in the Supreme Federal Tribunal.

Rousseff insisted that Lula da Silva was appointed for his political experience and his "history of improving fiscal stability and fighting inflation." She said that despite being chief of staff, Lula da Silva will still be subjected to investigation by Brazil's top court.

Street clashes

Lula da Silva's supporters clashed with opponents of his Workers' Party outside the presidential palace in the capital, Brasilia, Thursday before he was due to be sworn in.

This followed clashes on Wednesday.

"If Lula takes office, we are going to bring Brazil to a halt," Carla Zambelli from Alianca Nacional, one of the groups behind Sunday's demonstrations, told Rio-based O Globo newspaper.

According to police, 2,500 people demonstrated outside the presidential palace in Brasilia. The Avenue Paulista in Sao Paulo, Brazil's largest city and economic hub, was also blocked off. A session of Congress was disturbed by dozens of opposition lawmakers.

Police used pepper spray to stop the clashes between rival groups and move on about 300 opposition protesters who were trying to enter the city's main square, which was being occupied by over 300 pro-government demonstrators.

An estimated 3 million people turned out for anti-government demonstrations nationwide Sunday. Protests are also planned for Thursday and Friday.

Trade-offs

Meanwhile, Rousseff, who was chief of staff for Silva in 2005-2010, thanked him in a press conference Thursday. "He comes with his knowledge of the country, of the needs of the country and his commitment ... it is going to be a huge boost for my government," the president said.

Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff.

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff.

The decision was widely seen to cement support for Rousseff's ailing government among the trade union movement and others loyal to the former president, although even before the move was announced publicly, the value of the Brazilian currency, the real, and the stock market had tumbled.

Lula was inaugurated president in 2003 and again in 2007. His term ended in January 2011.

jh/kms (AFP, Reuters)

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