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  HOME | Brazil (Click here for more)

Brazil High Court Overturns Suspension of Senate Chief

BRASILIA Ė Brazilís Supreme Court on Wednesday reversed an earlier ruling by one of its members suspending the indicted Renan Calheiros from his position as head of the Senate.

The judges voted 6-3 in favor of lifting the injunction issued Monday by Marco Aurelio Mello, who suspended Calheiros based on a still-pending high court decision barring a criminal defendant from occupying a post in the line of presidential succession.

As Brazil is currently without a vice president, the Senate leader is second behind the speaker of the lower house.

In a nod to Melloís argument, the full Supreme Court said Wednesday that while Calheiros may remain Senate leader, he cannot succeed to the presidency as long as he faces charges.

The judges also blasted the executive committee of the Senate for its refusal to recognize the injunction suspending Calheiros, voting unanimously to condemn the move as an ďaffront to the judicial branch.Ē

The Supreme Courtís decision to keep Calheiros in his post is good news for President Michel Temer, who had been counting on his PMDB party colleague and close ally to secure Senate approval for controversial austerity measures.

If the suspension had been upheld, Calheiros would have been replaced as Senate leader by Sen. Jorge Viana, a member of the center-left Workers Party (PT) that governed Brazil from January 2003 until Aug. 31 of this year, when elected President Dilma Rousseff was ousted by Congress for alleged budget irregularities.

The government feared that Viana would postpone a Senate vote on Temerís proposal for a constitutional amendment to cap public spending for the next 20 years, part of an aggressive right-wing agenda the new president has pursued since taking office.

The lower house has already approved the amendment, which the PT and other critics say would have the effect of freezing public investment in areas such as education and health care.

The Supreme Court voted 8-2 last Thursday to allow prosecutors to proceed against Calheiros on corruption charges.

Under Brazilian law, only the nationís highest court can hear cases against sitting lawmakers and senior officials.

The Senate chief is accused of using his influence to benefit construction company Mendes Junior in exchange for the firmís agreeing to support Calheirosí out-of-wedlock daughter by journalist Monica Veloso.

The situation became public in 2007 and Calheiros was forced to give up his post as Senate leader, but not his seat, and he was re-elected leader in 2013.

Calheiros is also among dozens of Brazilian politicians under investigation in connection with the $2 billion corruption scandal centered on state oil company Petrobras.


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