Latin America & Caribbean

Brazil Supreme Court scraps President Rousseff impeachment commission

Dilma Rousseff, 16 Dec 2015, Brasilia Image copyright AFP
Image caption Dilma Rousseff, a former political prisoner, was elected last year to a second four-year term

In a major setback for Brazil's opposition, the Supreme Court has scrapped a commission set up to deal with impeachment proceedings against President Dilma Rousseff.

The court has also given more powers to the government-controlled Senate to block the impeachment process.

The ruling means that proceedings initiated earlier this month will have to start from scratch.

Ms Rousseff said she was innocent and the impeachment attempt would fail.

Proceedings were opened on 2 December by the disgraced Speaker of the lower house of Congress, Eduardo Cunha.

He opened the process based on allegations that Ms Rousseff broke the law in the management of last year's budget.

'Bribes for contracts'

Ms Rousseff went on national TV hours after Mr Cunha's announcement to say that she was "outraged by the decision".

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Eduardo Cunha denied lying to Congress about holding bank accounts in Switzerland

Despite re-election last year, her popularity has slumped amid a corruption scandal involving the state-owned oil giant, Petrobras.

She has not been directly implicated in the scandal, but senior members of her governing coalition have been arrested and charged.

The kickback scandal has hit politicians from parties on both sides of the political divide.

Mr Cunha, a staunch rival of Ms Rousseff, has himself been accused of taking bribes to secure a contract with Petrobras.

On Wednesday, Brazilian Attorney-General Rodrigo Junot presented formal corruption and money laundering charges against him.

Mr Cunha denies the allegations and says they are political.

It was a good day for President Rousseff, the BBC's Wyre Davies in Rio de Janeiro says.

Mr Junot's move and the Supreme Court ruling also raise the question of whether Mr Cunha has the authority or support to renew the impeachment process, our correspondent adds.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption "No to the coup," reads the banner at a pro-Rousseff march in Brasilia on Wednesday

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