Brazil’s Shrewd Senate Boss Unlikely to Rescue Rousseff

Brad Haynes, Alonso Soto – Reuters, 04/18/2016

Dilma Rousseff is not the first Brazilian president forced to contemplate the loyalty of Renan Calheiros on the eve of her possible impeachment.
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Nearly 25 years ago, Calheiros, the current president of the Senate who will decide the pace of debate over Rousseff’s impeachment, weighed the fate of a fellow politician from his tiny northeastern state of Alagoas: Fernando Collor de Mello.

Calheiros was a key advisor in Collor’s successful presidential campaign in 1989. Just three years later, his explosive revelations of government corruption to journalists and congressional investigators helped topple Collor in a corruption scandal.

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Brazil’s crafty Senate boss helps keep Rousseff afloat

Anthony Boadle – Reuters, 8/30/2015

Renan Calheiros took an Air Force jet to get hair implants and was accused of letting a lobbyist pay child support to a journalist he had an affair and a child with.

Either episode would have derailed many politicians but corruption allegations have not kept Calheiros, the 59-year-old president of Brazil’s Senate, from making himself a go-to partner in the chaotic dance of Brazilian politics.

President Dilma Rousseff, her government beset by economic and corruption crises that some believe could cost her the presidency, is the latest to take his hand.

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Brazil Senate Chief Says Rousseff Austerity Plan Threatens Jobs

Mario Sergio Lima and Arnaldo Galvao – Bloomberg Business, 4/30/2015

President Dilma Rousseff’s fiscal-austerity program threatens jobs, Brazil’s Senate leader said, underscoring the challenge her government faces in pushing the measures through Congress.

“This can’t even be called a fiscal adjustment,” Senate President Renan Calheiros, a member of Rousseff’s coalition, told reporters in Brasilia Thursday. “The fiscal adjustment needs to cut the fat, reduce the number of ministries and political appointments. Without that, it’s an adjustment for workers that only cuts their benefits.”

The criticism comes as the government’s economic team tries to convince lawmakers to approve belt tightening measures that include cuts to unemployment and pension benefits. Rousseff is struggling to reduce the public debt and stave off the second sovereign-credit downgrade of her presidency.

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Brazil’s Power Dynamics Shifting Amid Political Scandals

Simon Romero – The New York Times, 4/28/2015

The head of Brazil’s Senate, Renan Calheiros, has been accused of tax evasion, using a government jet to visit a surgeon who alleviated his baldness with hair implants and allowing a construction company’s lobbyist to pay child support for his daughter from an extramarital affair with a television journalist.

Eduardo Cunha, the conservative speaker of Brazil’s lower house of Congress, has also faced — and successfully battled — a list of corruption accusations, from embezzlement to living in an apartment paid for by a black-market money dealer.

In some democracies, figures facing such situations might find themselves banished from public life even if they were never convicted. But not in Brazil, where the men who command the scandal-plagued Congress are actually increasing their power over the scandal-plagued president, Dilma Rousseff.

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Scandal hits Brazil on eve of election

Longview News-Journal, 9/7/2014

As Brazilians prepare to vote in a national election next month, a scandal involving the state-controlled oil giant Petrobras flared up again during the weekend over testimony that implicated dozens of top figures in President Dilma Rousseff’s governing coalition in a vast kickback scheme.

Details of the scheme were revealed in confidential testimony by Paulo Roberto Costa, a jailed former executive who oversaw refining operations at Petrobras until 2012. The testimony was obtained by Veja, a Brazilian magazine. The accusations target Rousseff’s energy minister, Edison Lobão, and the leaders of both houses of Congress, Henrique Eduardo Alves and Renan Calheiros.

The revelations complicate a tough re-election bid by Rousseff, who has seen her lead in the polls vanish amid the surging candidacy of Marina Silva, an environmental leader whose campaign has blasted Rousseff over corruption at Petrobras and called on Brazil to shift toward a greater reliance on renewable energy sources. The election is scheduled for Oct. 5.

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Brazil commemorates 25 years of the post-dictatorship constitution

MercoPress, 10/31/2013

Four former Brazilian presidents Jose Sarney, Fernando Color de Mello, Fernando Henrique Cardoso and Lula da Silva were honored at a ceremony in the Senate to commemorate the 25 years of the 1988 constitution.

The four ex heads of state and other politicians received the Ulyses Guimarares medal the highest decoration of the Brazilian Congress for their contributions to the current constitution.

The constitution, the seventh in the country’s history, was promulgated on 5 October 1988, after a year and eight months of discussions by a constituent assembly elected in 1986.

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Unstoppable?

The Economist, 02/16/2013

“BRAZILIANS! You’ve just been taken for fools!” So wrote the organisers of an online petition calling for the impeachment of Renan Calheiros, who was elected president of Brazil’s Senate on February 1st. And on February 11th, though Carnival was in full swing, the petition notched up more than 1.36m signatures, 1% of the electorate. That gives its backers the right to present their demand to Congress, though they will have to wait until after February 19th to do so: whereas other Brazilians get three days off for Carnival, lawmakers enjoy two full weeks.

Mr Calheiros, a wheeler-dealer of the sort who excels in Brazil’s fragmented coalition politics, was president of the Senate from 2005 to 2007. But he resigned after allegations that a lobbyist had paid maintenance on his behalf to a lover with whom he had had a child, and that he then faked receipts for the sale of cattle to try to prove that he could have afforded to pay her himself. He denies all wrongdoing and has since stayed active in politics, but only behind the scenes. His allies in the Party of the Brazilian Democratic Movement (PMDB), Brazil’s largest, evidently judged it was time for him to return to centre-stage.

The president of Brazil’s Senate has the power to sideline his enemies’ projects and deny them opportunities for patronage. That is why 56 senators voted for Mr Calheiros and only 18 against—even though Aécio Neves and Eduardo Campos, two probable opposition presidential candidates in 2014, had urged their parties to vote for a hastily chosen alternative. Dilma Rousseff, the president, has taken a hard line in the past by sacking ministers facing allegations of corruption. And her Workers’ Party is angry about what it sees as bias: last year’s trial of the mensalão (big monthly stipend) vote-buying scandal saw many of its members handed unexpectedly harsh sentences. But realpolitik prevailed. With the PMDB behind Mr Calheiros, Ms Rousseff accepted his candidacy and telephoned to congratulate him when he won.

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