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Rapporteur tells Brazil commission to impeach Rousseff

The representative for a congressional commission has called for Brazil's legislature to move forward with the impeachment of President Dilma Rousseff. The decision brings Brazil one step closer to a democratic showdown.

Jovair Arantes (pictured), rapporteur for the special impeachment commission in Brazil's lower house, said he had concluded the "legal admissibility" of the

case against President Dilma Rousseff,

who could lose her post as early as May.

Sometimes interrupted by deputies who shouted and argued, Arantes delivered his recommendation live on television to the congress's 65-member impeachment commission.

The recommendation means that Brazil's right-wing opposition had drawn first blood in its increasingly bitter battle to remove

the country's first female president

from office. On Monday, the full commission is to vote on impeachment. Should that advance, the lower house of congress will meet April 18 to hold a decisive vote.

The opposition needs two-thirds of the lower house - or 342 out of the 513 legislators. According to the Estadao newspaper, 245 deputies currently favor impeachment, 110 oppose it, 58 remain undecided, 11 did not want to reveal their position and 89 did not respond to the question. Should the motion pass the lower house, an impeachment trial would start in the Senate and require a two-thirds vote to remove Rousseff from office.

Rousseff's ruling coalition took a huge hit last week, when

the Brazilian Democratic Movement Party,

headed by Vice President Michel Temer, went into the opposition.

The president's Workers' Party

(PT) has begun scrambling anew to build alliances. Rousseff's influential predecessor and mentor, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, has holed up in a hotel in the capital, Brasilia, to lead negotiations with parties and individual deputies.

Everybody's a suspect

The opposition accuses Rousseff, whose popularity has waned during Brazil's recession, of masking shortfalls during her 2014 re-election campaign. The president says she has committed no impeachment-worthy crime. She says the right-wing opposition has begun efforts toward a legislative coup d'etat to install a president who would be cozier with business.

Listen to audio 07:40

Brazil's divisive politics (01.04.2016)

On Tuesday, a Supreme Court judge ruled in favor of

a bid to impeach Vice President Temer,

one of three officials in line for Rousseff's job. He stands accused of participating in the same irregularities as the president allegedly has.

Investigator Arantes is allied with lower house Speaker Eduardo Cunha, who has driven the impeachment process while himself facing money-laundering charges in connection with bribery to win contracts at the state-run oil giant Petrobras. In Brazil, evidence has linked lawmakers from all major parties to hundreds of millions of dollars in bribes.

Media outlets, many of which are backed by well-moneyed supporters of the right-wing opposition, have fixated on the PT's transgressions, however.

mkg/jm (Reuters, AFP, dpa, AP)

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