Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff. (Image: Jonas Pereira/Agência Senado, CC BY 2.0.)
Brazil, Southern Cone, Today in Latin America

Brazil’s Rousseff Faces Two-Front Battle on Charges of Election Irregularities

October 7, 2015 By Staff

Top Story — Brazil’s highest electoral court on Tuesday ruled in favor of an investigation into the alleged misuse of campaign funds by President Dilma Rousseff, setting the stage for a possible lengthy battle which could invalidate Rousseff’s presidency.

The Supreme Electoral Tribunal will investigate whether Rousseff and her Vice President Michel Temer funded their re-election campaign with illegal money, including funds diverted from public coffers in connection with a historic graft scandal at the state oil firm Petrobras.

Rousseff’s presidency could be invalidated if she is found to have taken illegal money, although Reuters notes that the process to remove her from office on those grounds could take years.

The electoral court’s decision preceded a separate scheduled vote today by another top court on whether the Rousseff administration broke fiscal responsibility laws by postponing repayments to state-run banks ahead of her 2014 re-election, effectively concealing shortfalls in the federal budget.

Rousseff could also be impeached based on the results of today’s vote on the 2014 budget; her opponents in the legislature have been clamoring for her removal amid a worsening economic recession and in connection with the Petrobras scandal.

Brazil’s attorney general has requested an injunction to delay today’s vote on the grounds that the judge responsible for the case made his opinion public ahead of the vote and should be replaced.

Rousseff won the 2014 presidential election against opponent Aécio Neves by a margin of 3.2 percent. The investigation by Brazil’s top electoral tribunal, the TSE, was requested by Neves’ PSDB party. An invalidation of Rousseff’s re-election could pave the way to new elections, although analysts told Reuters that this is an unlikely scenario.

Headlines from the Western Hemisphere

North America

  • Mexico’s defense minister said late on Monday that he will not allow the questioning of troops in connection with the disappearance of 43 students in Guerrero state, despite repeated allegations of military involvement.
  • In another prominent case involving alleged abuses by the Mexican security forces, federal prosecutors there said on Tuesday they will appeal a judge’s decision to drop murder charges against four of the seven soldiers accused of murdering 22 suspected gang members after the victims surrendered to troops in June 2014.

Caribbean

  • The United States’ commerce secretary arrived in Cuba on Tuesday to discuss efforts by President Barack Obama to ease the burden of the ongoing U.S. economic embargo against Cuba, which Obama opposes but which remains under the control of a hostile U.S. Congress.
  • U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry flew into nearby Haiti on Tuesday, where he stressed in public remarks the importance of order and respect for the rule of law in an upcoming presidential election following a chaotic round of legislative polling in August.

Central America

  • Homicide rates in El Salvador are up 72 percent since the beginning of the year, the forensic institute IML said on Tuesday, a phenomenon widely attributed to the breakdown of a truce between the country’s two largest gangs.
  • One police officer was killed and 23 other people injured after a protest turned violent at Nicaragua’s El Limón mine, where a week-long shutdown over a labor dispute has reportedly cost the mine’s Canadian operator more than $1 million.
  • The death toll of Last week’s mudslide in Guatemala, which has claimed 186 lives and counting, could have been prevented, according to prosecutors investigating who is responsible for construction in the affected area despite reports it was not safe for habitation.

Andes

  • Venezuela’s economy is forecast to contract by more than 10 percent over 2015, more than any other country, the International Monetary Fund said in a report published Tuesday.
  • Colombia’s public prosecutor on Tuesday called for judges to probe whether ex-President Álvaro Uribe was involved in the 1997 killings of 15 people by paramilitary gunmen, a request Uribe likened to “slander.”

Southern Cone

  • Argentina on Tuesday announced it raised just short of $670 million in the first of three planned bond issues, a figure Reuters described as a “likely disappointment” given that the “cash-strapped government” was seeking to raise some $1.5 billion.
  • Brazilian reinsurance firm IRB has reportedly called off a planned public offering due to uncertainty over the economy in Brazil, which in 2014 saw only one company go public.

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