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Brazilian president’s woes deepen


President-Dilma-RousseffBrazilian President Dilma Rousseff, who is facing the prospect of impeachment, saw her woes deepen early Tuesday as the vice president appeared to distance himself from her.

Vice President Michel Temer is from the centrist PMDB party, the main partner in Brazil’s ruling coalition, along with Rousseff’s Workers’ Party.

Rousseff is accused of illegal accounting maneuvers in the government’s handling of the budget.

She has repeatedly said the accounting practices were a long-accepted practice under previous governments, and described the impeachment move as a coup.

Congress began convening an impeachment committee Monday.

That kicked off what could be a months-long battle over the leftist president’s fate, as the world’s seventh largest economy suffers a recession and the fallout from a giant corruption scandal centered on state oil company Petrobras.

It also focused attention on whether the PMDB party would remain loyal to the president.

Temer had maintained total silence since the impeachment crisis broke last week, in what some analysts saw as a signal he was preparing to abandon Rousseff. If she were forced from office, he would replace her as interim president.

But in a letter from him to Rousseff published in Brazilian news outlets early Tuesday, Temer criticized the president.

Temer’s office insisted however he was not breaking with the government but rather “defending the reunification of the country,” according to the news website G1.

– A ‘decorative VP’ –
In the letter, Temer told the president that during her first term in office starting in 2011 he always felt like a “decorative” part of the government and that she did not trust him.

“I always felt certain that the first lady and those around her did not trust me or the PMDB,” Temer is quoted as saying in the letter, which was carried in its entirety in major newspapers.

Temer accused the president of ignoring him on major policy decisions and trying to divide his party.

As recently as Monday the president had said she believed Temer would stand by her.

For now, the presidency believes it has enough support to ride out impeachment.

The lower house would have to vote by more than two-thirds for the case to be sent for a formal trial in the Senate, where again a two-thirds majority would be needed to remove Rousseff from office.

Rousseff, only a year into her second term and with popularity ratings of barely 10 percent, has come out swinging since months of rhetoric in Congress ended with the launching of the impeachment process last week.

She called on Congress to speed up proceedings and to scrap the annual holidays that run from December 23 through to February when the carnivals are held.

Brazil, host of the 2016 Rio Olympics, is in a deep gloom, with GDP down 4.5 percent in the third quarter year-on-year, and the national currency down a third against the dollar this year.

Rousseff is also tainted by the Petrobras scandal, which has sucked in leading politicians and business figures, exposing the depth of corruption at the highest levels in Brazil.

Even though Rousseff herself has not been linked to any Petrobras-related crimes, the saga is adding to the sense of drift that has plagued her second term.

Some experts believe Rousseff is being tried for political reasons, as punishment for having presided over a general decline, rather than the arguably technical crimes of accounting malpractice.

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