The rapporteur of a lower-house impeachment committee said in a report that congressional proceedings that could lead to Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff's removal from office should continue. The report by lawmaker and committee member Jovair Arantes must now be voted on by all 65 members of that Chamber of Deputies special panel on Monday.
The rapporteur said there were minimal indications that Rousseff had committed an impeachable crime of responsibility when she ostensibly manipulated budget numbers to disguise the size of the deficit.
Arantes recalled that his purpose had been merely to analyze the objectivity of the complaint in all of its technical aspects and determine if there were grounds for an impeachment trial, adding that it was not yet time to say whether or not the president had committed a crime of responsibility.
More than half of the members of the impeachment committee are under investigation for corruption or other serious crimes. A simple majority of the panel is needed to bring the matter to the lower-house floor, where a two-thirds majority would be necessary to move the proceedings to the Senate.
In the upper house, a vote of a simple majority would be sufficient to launch an impeachment trial, during which time Rousseff would have to temporarily leave office and be replaced by her vice president, Michel Temer.
Temer remains vice president despite the split and the PMDB's decision to take an independent stance in regard to the possible impeachment of Rousseff, whose second term in office is due to expire on Jan. 1, 2019.
But Brazil's political crisis deepened on Tuesday when a Supreme Court judge ordered Congress also to start impeachment proceedings against Temer on the same charges brought against Rousseff. The allegations against him also relate to the manipulation of government accounts, which he has denied.
The two men next in line to stand in for Ms Rousseff should she be suspended are also facing legal trouble over allegations of corruption.
The speaker of the lower house of Congress, Eduardo Cunha, and Senate speaker Renan Calheiros, are under investigation in connection with a massive corruption scandal at state-oil company Petrobras.
However the president's ouster is uncertain. Surveys by Brazilian media show her opponents have not secured two-thirds of the votes in the lower house to take her impeachment to the Senate. O Globo newspaper reported on Tuesday the opposition was three votes short of a majority in the impeachment committee.
In a boost for her chances of surviving impeachment, the centrist Progressive Party (PP) said on Wednesday it will remain in her governing coalition until the lower house votes. Rousseff has been negotiating government jobs to retain the backing of allies such as the PP after her main coalition partner, the PMDB, broke away.
”It is clear a majority (of the PP) does not want to break with Rousseff, party leader Senator Ciro Nogueira told reporters. They will tend to vote for the president over impeachment.”
Uncertainty over Rousseff's impeachment fueled volatility on Brazilian markets, with the Sao Paulo stock market Bovespa retreating 1.95% on Wednesday. Bets that Rousseff will be replaced by a more business-friendly administration have rekindled appetite for Brazilian assets, with the real jumping more than 10% last month and the Bovespa among the world's best performing stock indexes this year.
The impeachment battle comes amid severe stagflation in Brazil, which suffered a 3.8% drop in its GDP in 2015 - its worst result in 25 years - and is enduring its highest inflation and jobless levels in many years.