Impeachment proceedings against Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff have resumed following procedural snags. Rousseff faces being suspended from office if the Senate votes to send her to trial later this week.
Brazil's Senate pressed ahead with impeachment proceedings against President Rousseff on Monday, rejecting a surprise decision by the acting speaker of the lower house to annul the whole process.
House speaker Waldir Maranhao had declared that the whole process was flawed and should be brought back to square one. That's because he argued the original vote by lower house deputies sending Rousseff to face the Senate had "pre-judged" the president and denied her "the right to a full defense."
"I'm aware that this is a delicate moment. We have the duty to save democracy through debate. We are not and will not be playing with democracy," Maranhao said, without taking questions from reporters.
House, Senate heading toward conflict
A surprise move by acting Speaker Waldir Maranhao touched off a firestorm of debate over its legality, triggering an impasse that will likely be heard by the supreme court
Rousseff, speaking at an event in the presidential palace, appeared surprised at the news of the move, which came as she was speaking.
The crowd broke out into wild cheers, but Rousseff cautioned them from becoming too excited. "It's not official and I do not know the consequences, so let's be cautious," she told her supporters.
The house speaker's appeal was not received well by many of his colleagues in the Senate. "I ignore" the order, Senate President Renan Calheiros said on national television. This sparked raucous applause and angry shouting from rival senators on the Senate floor.
The senate president called the lower house's intervention in the impeachment drama "absolutely untimely" and "playing with democracy."
Rousseff - from the leftist Workers' Party - stands accused of illegally manipulating government budget accounts during her 2014 re-election battle to mask the seriousness of economic problems.
But she has defended herself by accusing her rivals of trying to oust her in a right-wing coup.
Rousseff's removal has been looking increasingly certain after the lower house voted in mid-April by an overwhelming majority to send her case to the Senate for trial.
In the Senate, around 50 of the 81 senators have already said they planned to vote in favor of an impeachment trial, well over the simple majority needed to open the process.
The vote result is expected on Thursday, followed shortly after by Rousseff's departure from the presidential offices. Ministers have reportedly already been clearing their desks.
Any trial would likely last months as a two-third majority would be required to eject her from office.
The crisis comes on top of Brazil's deepest recession in decades, just three months before Rio de Janeiro hosts the Olympic Games in August.
Politicians being investigated in the Petrobras embezzlement ring include Calheiros, Maranhao and Rousseff's presidential predecessor and political mentor Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.
jar/bw (AP, AFP, Reuters)