Brazilian Supreme Court Justice Suspends Impeachment Proceedings Against President

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff. (Image: Roberto Stuckert Filho, CC BY-SA 2.0)
Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff. (Image: Roberto Stuckert Filho, CC BY-SA 2.0)

Top Story — Brazilian Supreme Court Justice Luiz Edson Fachin made the decision late Tuesday night to suspend impeachment proceedings against President Dilma Rousseff, just hours after lawmakers dealt Rousseff a serious setback by approving a 65-member impeachment committee stacked with Rousseff’s opponents.

The decision provides the embattled president relief after lawmakers voted 272-199 by secret ballot in favor of a list of members drafted by both the opposition and pro-impeachment members of the Brazilian Democratic Movement Party, the largest party in Rousseff’s government, which has been split over the impeachment since the process started last week. However, Fachin said that he suspended the proceedings “to avoid acts that could eventually be invalidated by the Supreme Court,” according to Reuters. The vote had been considered an obvious defeat for Rousseff, who has been battling historically low approval ratings amid the ongoing Petrobas corruption scandal and a deepening economic crisis.

The committee was drafted to determine whether Rousseff committed an impeachable offense by allegedly breaking budget rules to boost social spending in an election year. Reuters called the Brazilian Democratic Movement Party’s move to support an oppositional committee a “slap in the face” to party leader Leonardo Picciani, who has supported Rousseff following impeachment proceedings, and it underscores the divide within the party as confidence in the Brazilian government has plummeted.

The fact that 199 lawmakers voted for the pro-government committee list is still an indication that Rousseff may have the support needed to block a final impeachment vote before the full Congress. However, Brazilian Vice President Michel Temer also publicly criticized Rousseff and submitted a letter of complaint to the president, which was published in O Globo newspaper. Temer controls a number of important moderate votes in the Democratic Movement Party, and his move puts him in a position to potentially take over for Rousseff if she is suspended or removed from office.

The impeachment proceedings, if they are allowed to continue, are expected to be a lengthy process that will last long into 2016.

Headlines from the Western Hemisphere

North America

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  • The first pedestrian bridge to link a foreign airport to the United States will open on Wednesday between San Diego and Tijuana International Airport in Mexico.

Caribbean

  • Cuba and the United States have initiated compensation talks as part of the two countries’ restoration of diplomatic ties, with U.S. firms demanding about $10 billion in payment for properties confiscated after Cuba’s 1959 revolution and Cuba demanding over $100 billion in damages from the U.S. economic embargo.
  • Cuba, meanwhile, returned a fugitive wanted on firearms charges back to the United States on Tuesday after the man had attempted to escape to Cuba, marking the first time the Cuban government has sent a fugitive back to the United States since the two countries restored diplomatic ties last December.

Central America

  • Belize on Tuesday turned down Costa Rica’s request that 3,000 Cubans currently stranded on the Costa Rican border with Nicaragua be allowed to travel to Belize to continue their journey to the United States. Belize Prime Minister Dean Barrow called the plight of the Cuban migrants a regional issue that should be dealt with accordingly.
  • Al Jazeera America takes an in-depth look at the drought that has affected Guatemala and other Central American countries in the past three years, which the United Nations estimates has already affected 2.5 million people.

Andes

  • Venezuela’s opposition leader Jesús Torrealba said in a news conference Tuesday, “We urge the government to stop crying and start working” after his right-wing Democratic Unity coalition won a supermajority in Sunday’s legislative elections.
  • The Associated Press reports on the fears many of Venezuela’s poor residents have after Sunday’s victory for the opposition, whose promises to do away with price and currency controls may alleviate widespread food and medicine shortages in the long term, but will expose the poor to the country’s massive inflation in the short term.
  • After Spanish authorities said they want to negotiate their rights to a 1708 shipwreck discovered last month off of Colombia’s Caribbean coast, Colombia President Juan Manuel Santos has rejected their claims, saying that the precious contents belong to Colombia rather than Spain, and will be put in a museum to be built in nearby Cartagena.

Southern Cone

  • An Argentine official told reporters Tuesday that outgoing President Cristina Fernández will not attend the ceremony later this week inaugurating her successor Mauricio Macri, even after representatives from both camps met for conciliatory talks after weeks of conflict.
  • Chilean officials have confirmed the death of the wealthy conservationist and businessman Douglas Tompkins, who perished of hypothermia from a kayaking accident in the country’s Patagonia region, where he had supported environmental protection since the 1960s through profits from his outdoor-clothing company, The North Face.

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