Brazil's Rousseff Plans Final Measures as Impeachment Vote Looms

  • Senate is expected to vote in May to open impeachment trial
  • Rousseff would have to step down from office during the trial

In what could be the last full week of her presidency, Dilma Rousseff in early May is planning events to celebrate and consecrate the most popular programs of her government in areas such as health, agriculture and public housing.

The ceremonies will be accompanied by a flurry of measures to preserve the programs, even if Vice President Michel Temer takes over in mid-May following a Senate vote that is expected to result in Rousseff’s temporary removal from office. The strategy is designed to close 13 years of Workers’ Party rule on a positive note, according to a government official who participated in the planning.

There is a feeling of resignation in the presidential palace as aides recognize that the mandate of Brazil’s first female president could be coming to a premature end. Even as administrative missteps and economic mismanagement appear increasingly likely to force Rousseff from office in a process she says has no legal foundation, her supporters are celebrating the social programs that they say improved Brazil.

“My fight today is to guarantee and preserve the historic victories of the Brazilian people,” Rousseff said in a event for her Mais Medicos health program, adding some veiled criticism of the budget cuts suggested by Temer’s advisers. “Whoever proposes austerity measures to reduce spending on health for the Brazilian people is proposing a major step back that’s not in the interest of the people.”

Temer’s supporters have been battling accusations from members of Rousseff’s party that his administration would trim welfare programs to appease business interests, should he take over the top job. The vice president denied those charges in an interview televised Thursday night, saying his top priorities would be to create jobs and put the economy “back on track.”

Rousseff’s Defense

Rousseff’s cabinet members are presenting her defense Friday in a special Senate committee that is preparing a report about the impeachment request against the president.

The full Senate will vote as early as May 11 whether to put Rousseff on trial for allegedly doctoring fiscal accounts to mask the size of the budget deficit. If a simple majority of the legislators vote against the president, she must temporarily step down for as long as 180 days and stand trial in the Senate. The chamber then would need support from two-thirds of its 81 members to impeach the president and terminate her mandate.

While Rousseff recognizes that she almost certainly will have to step down next month, she has told close advisers that she’ll continue to fight the process in Congress, in the courts and with demonstrators in the streets, the official said.

Vice President Temer is already forming his cabinet and finalizing policy measures. The real has rallied 15 percent this year on bets Temer would implement market-friendly measures, while his closest advisers try to manage expectations of what he’ll actually be able to accomplish.

The presidential palace next week will host two ceremonies for agricultural programs and an event to receive the Olympic torch ahead of the Rio de Janeiro games in August. Rousseff is also considering trips to Para state for a public housing event and to Sao Paulo, where she could announce changes to the popular conditional cash-transfer program Bolsa Familia, according to the government official familiar with her plans, who asked not to be named because the trips aren’t confirmed.

Pro-government rallies are also planned for May 1, which is Labor Day in South America and traditionally a celebration of workers’ rights and leftist politics. If Rousseff travels to Sao Paulo, she’s expected to greet supporters who in recent weeks have joined her in decrying impeachment as a modern-day coup d’etat.

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.