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Brazil poll shows strong support for president’s impeachment

Turmoil around Dilma Rousseff and her predecessor—who has been appointed her chief-of-staff—comes amid economic crisis and Zika


 
Demonstrators parade large inflatable dolls depicting Brazil's former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva in prison garb and current President Dilma Rousseff dressed as a thief, with a presidential sash that reads "Impeachment," in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Sunday, March 13, 2016. (Andre Penner/AP)

Demonstrators parade large inflatable dolls depicting Brazil’s former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva in prison garb and current President Dilma Rousseff dressed as a thief, with a presidential sash that reads “Impeachment,” in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Sunday, March 13, 2016. (Andre Penner/AP)

RIO DE JANEIRO — A new poll published Sunday suggested strong support for the impeachment of embattled Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff in a politically polarized country mired in an economic recession and a corruption probe that has ensnared much of the county’s political brass.

The poll by the respected Datafolha agency, published in the Folha de S. Paulo newspaper, said 68 per cent of people surveyed want to see lawmakers vote to impeach Rousseff. That’s up 8 percentage points since February, with the jump was highest among the rich, who supported Rousseff’s impeachment by 74 per cent.

Just 10 per cent rated Rousseff’s government as good or excellent, with 69 per cent calling it bad or terrible.

The ratings of her predecessor, former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, were also down — possibly dented by controversy over his appointment as Rousseff’s chief of staff, a move critics said was a bid to shield him from corruption allegations.

Fifty-seven per cent said they disapprove of him — a dramatic drop from the near-90 per cent approval rating he had when leaving office in 2010.

But in a sign of the depth of Brazilians’ disgust with the entire political establishment, Silva held onto his ranking as the best president Brazil ever had, with 35 per cent of the survey’s respondents picking him, compared with the 16 per cent who chose his predecessor, President Fernando Henrique Cardoso.

A Supreme Court justice on Friday suspended Silva’s nomination to the Cabinet post, and the full Supreme Court will have to decide whether he can take office. Under Brazilian law, Cabinet members cannot be investigated, charged or imprisoned unless authorized by the Supreme Court.

The Datafolha survey was carried out on March 17 and 18, with face-to-face interviews with 2,794 people in171 cities and towns. The margin of error is plus or minus 2 percentage points.

The effort to impeach Rousseff over allegations of fiscal mismanagement moved forward last week when the lower house created a special commission on the matter.

Rousseff backers say impeachment is a power grab by opponents who themselves have been sullied by an unrelated probe into kickbacks and bribery at the state-run oil company Petrobras. Eight of the 65 members of impeachment commission are currently facing charges, as is the speaker of the lower house, Eduardo Cunha, who opened the impeachment proceedings.

Former President Cardozo, meanwhile, said in an interview published Sunday by O Estado de S. Paulo that impeachment is a way out of the country’s problems.

“With the government’s incapacity to function that one sees today, her (Rousseff’s) ability to hold firm and make the government work, I think the path is impeachment,” said Cardozo, who governed the country from 1995-2002.

The political turmoil comes as Brazil prepares to host the Summer Olympics in August while struggling with an economic crisis and an outbreak of the Zika virus, which health experts believe may cause a devastating birth defect in newborns.


 
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