Brazil Senate Throws Lifeline to Rousseff Before Protests

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Brazil’s Senate president agreed to help President Dilma Rousseff block attempts in Congress to derail her economic recovery plan, throwing her a lifeline as a political crisis threatens the government’s stability.

In exchange for support to approve bills that Rousseff’s Workers’ Party opposes, such as more flexible labor laws, Renan Calheiros said he will oppose attempts to increase public spending. His offer comes ahead of nationwide marches against the president scheduled for Sunday.

Calheiros said his renewed dialogue with the government was a matter of “national interest” and not simply an attempt at rapprochement with the government.

“National interest is what needs to be guaranteed right now,” he told reporters after a meeting with Finance Minister Joaquim Levy. “If Brazil loses, we all lose.”

Since impeachment talks regained momentum in the past couple of weeks, Rousseff and Vice President Michel Temer resumed meetings with lawmakers to build a coalition strong enough to fend off opposition attacks.

Rousseff stepped up public appearances to trumpet her achievements and urged Brazilians to reject “anything goes” politics. In an interview with local SBT TV channel Wednesday she said intolerance has escalated in Brazil, but dismissed the possibility of “coups.”

“I don’t see a coup as possible in Brazil right now,” Rousseff said. “Disagreements can’t lead to ousting an elected president.”

Important Step

Calheiros’s move is “the first important step to approve the fiscal adjustment and defend President Dilma’s mandate,” said Rafael Cortez, political analyst at research company Tendencias. “It’s a first step to avoid new defeats for the government.”

The senate president said Wednesday one his main goals is to help prevent the loss of Brazil’s investment grade status.

“This is the main objective for all of us.”

Calheiros, who has presided over the Senate since 2013, wanted to bring to a vote Wednesday night a proposal by the government that increases corporate taxes. If such taxes are approved, it would show that negotiations between lawmakers and the government to rebuild the ruling coalition have advanced, Cortez said. Calheiros is a member of the Brazilian Democratic Movement Party, the biggest allied party known as the PMDB.

Earlier this year, Calheiros was at the center of key defeats for the government, such as the approval of higher wages for judges and judiciary officials, a move that would cost 25 billion reais ($7.2 billion) over four years. Rousseff vetoed the bill, and Congress has not yet scheduled a vote on whether to sustain the veto.

“Since last week we are all seeking a broad understanding,” Temer told reporters Wednesday, after meeting with former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and leaders of the PMDB.

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