Rousseff blasts praise for torturer during Brazil impeachment debate

Brasilia, April 20 (IANS/EFE) Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff on Tuesday blasted an opposition lawmaker for praising the chief torturer of the country’s 1964-1985 military regime as the lower house voted to go forward with the impeachment of the head of state, a victim of torture.

Jair Bolsonaro, a right-winger with presidential ambitions, cast his vote in favour of impeaching Rousseff with an expression of admiration for one of the junta’s most notorious henchmen, Col. Carlos Alberto Brilhante Ustra.

“I was a prisoner and I knew that gentleman and I can say that he was one of the biggest torturers in Brazil,” Rousseff said during an encounter with the foreign press.

“It’s terrible that somebody votes in Congress in the name of one of the biggest torturers Brazil has had,” she said.

The drive to impeach her may not resemble a traditional coup d’etat, but can fairly be described as a coup because its aim is to reverse the judgment of the voters, Rousseff said.

The centre-left president won a second four-year term in October 2014.

The lower house of Congress voted 367-137 on Sunday to impeach Rousseff on charges she massaged budget numbers to minimise the deficit.

Canada’s Globe and Mail newspaper pointed out that while 318 of the 594 members of the lower house are under investigation or face charges, Rousseff, “herself faces no allegation of financial impropriety”.

Brazil’s first woman president reiterated on Tuesday that the budget maneuvers were not illegal, much less serious crimes warranting impeachment.

The Senate leadership has scheduled for April 26 the selection of a 21-member panel to consider the accusations against Rousseff and issue a recommendation on whether or not to put her on trial.

Once the panel delivers its report, the full Senate will vote, with only a simple majority needed to convene a trial. In that event, Rousseff will be required to step down for 180 days pending completion of the process, with Vice President Michel Temer – under investigation for corruption – set to step in as acting president.

Removing Rousseff from office requires a two-thirds majority in the Senate.

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