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  HOME | Brazil (Click here for more)

Brazil Senate Presses Ahead with Austerity despite Leaderís Legal Woes

BRASILIA Ė Brazilian President Michel Temerís allies in the upper house of Congress on Thursday put concerns about the Senateís presidentís upcoming corruption trial on the back burner and moved ahead with plans to approve a controversial fiscal austerity plan.

Amid a crisis triggered by Senate President Renan Calheirosí legal woes, which led to the upper houseís sessions being virtually paralyzed for two days, communist Sen. Venessa Grazziotin on Thursday submitted a formal petition to suspend debate on the austerity measures, but it was voted down by a tally of 48-12.

The leader of the main opposition, center-left Workers Party (PT) in the upper house, Humberto Costa, protested that result and said the austerity measures proposed by Temerís administration would further debilitate the already recession-hit countryís economy and drag the country toward social upheaval.

Lawmakers are scheduled to vote next week on Temerís proposal for a constitutional amendment to limit public spending growth to the inflation rate for the next 20 years.

The proposed legislation has generated sometimes violent protests by Temerís opponents, who say the bill Ė if passed Ė would slash funding for education and health care.

Brazilís Supreme Court on Wednesday reversed an earlier ruling by one of its members suspending the indicted Calheiros from his position as head of the Senate.

The high courtís decision to keep Calheiros in his post was good news for Temer, who had been counting on his PMDB party colleague and close ally to secure Senate approval for the austerity measures.

The Supreme Court voted 8-2 last Thursday to allow prosecutors to proceed against Calheiros on corruption charges.

The Senate chief is accused of using his influence to benefit construction company Mendes Junior in exchange for the firmís agreeing to support Calheirosí out-of-wedlock daughter by journalist Monica Veloso.

Calheiros is also among dozens of Brazilian politicians under investigation in connection with the $2 billion corruption scandal centered on state oil company Petrobras.

 

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