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Brazil's largest ruling party votes to abandon seats in President Rousseff's cabinet over scandal

The party's six remaining members in the president's cabinet are expected to resign by April 12.
By Doug G. Ware   |   March 29, 2016 at 5:09 PM
| License Photo

BRASILIA, Brazil, March 29 (UPI) -- The largest party in Brazil's ruling coalition on Tuesday voted to vacate its seats in President Dilma Rousseff's cabinet as a direct result of ongoing controversy involving alleged financial crimes.

The centralist Partido do Movimento Democrático Brasileiro, also known as the Brazilian Democratic Movement Party, called for an immediate exit from the coalition at a time Rousseff is on the cusp of impeachment. Some commentators say the PMDB's exit may accelerate that effort.

Rousseff, opponents say, manipulated the government's finances to hide a growing deficit.

The party's vote occurred just one day after Brazil tourism minister Henrique Eduardo Alves, a member of the PMDB, resigned his post -- in what appears to be a mounting protest to Rousseff's regime.

At a hearing Tuesday, the party decided that its six remaining ministers in the president's cabinet must also resign by April 12, or face ethics proceedings, BBC News reported Tuesday. All six are expected to resign.

The PMDB's vote to exit Rousseff's administration was largely expected.

"It will be a goodbye to the government," party lawmaker Osmar Terra said before the vote.

The decision is an exclamation point on years of growing unease in the PMDB about being affiliated with the leftist Workers' Party, of which Rousseff is a member.

More than two-thirds of Brazil's congress must vote in favor of impeachment in order to remove Rousseff from office, which officials say could happen as soon as May. Formal impeachment proceedings began last week, but opponents have been moving in this direction for months.

If Rousseff is removed, PMDB-affiliated Vice President Michel Temer would replace her as head of state.

With the departures of the PMDB cabinet members, Rousseff instantly loses 69 votes in the 513-member Chamber of Deputies.

"This is her D-Day," Brazilian college professor David Fleischer told The Guardian. "The possibility of her impeachment increases to 90 percent."

Rousseff, 68, is in the early stages of her second term. Originally elected in 2010, she was reelected four years later.

Earlier this month, she appointed Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva as her chief of staff -- a move viewed by some as an attempt to mitigate any possible prosecution of him. In Brazil, cabinet members can be investigated only by the Supreme Court.

However, that high court suspended Lula's appointment. His nomination is expected to be ruled on next week.

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