BRASILIA – Brazil’s national elections agency suspended a planned hearing Tuesday on allegations of fraud during the 2014 campaign of former President Dilma Rousseff and her running mate and now-President Michel Temer two hours before it was to start.
In a unanimous ruling, the court accepted the first appeals by Rousseff’s defense team asking for more time to present their final arguments and call new witnesses, and the proceedings have now been suspended for an as yet unspecified period.
Rousseff was removed from office for fiscal fraud in August 2016 and replaced by Temer, who may – in turn – have to face his own legal proceedings that could result in his ouster.
The court accepted the premise of Rousseff’s defense team that they have five days within which to present their latest material and not two, as had earlier been established by the court, along with their claim that they need to interview new witnesses.
Among those witnesses will be former Finance Minister Guido Mantega, suspected of having negotiated irregular donations to Rousseff’s 2014 campaign by the Odebrecht construction group and who has been called to give testimony by Rousseff’s defense attorneys.
The acceptance of the demands opens up a break in the trial, which will remain suspended for at least the next week, when the newly established period for presenting final defense arguments will expire, although in legal circles is it already being calculated that the proceedings will not resume until May.
The former president of the huge construction group bearing his surname, Marcelo Odebrecht, has admitted contributing 150 million reais (about $48 million) to the campaign of Rousseff and Temer, adding that at least a third of that money originated from corrupt practices.
If Temer were to be ousted, this would result in an indirect election in Congress to determine who would assume the presidency, a situation that would deepen the political crisis that has been under way for the last three years since the wide-ranging corruption scandal involving the state-run Petrobras oil firm erupted.