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News > Latin America

Corrupt Head of Brazil's Senate Keeps Job Despite Indictment

  • Brazil's Senate President Renan Calheiros, who has been indicted for embezzlement, talks with journalists in Brasilia, Dec. 6, 2016.

    Brazil's Senate President Renan Calheiros, who has been indicted for embezzlement, talks with journalists in Brasilia, Dec. 6, 2016. | Photo: Reuters

Published 7 December 2016

Brazil's Supreme Court will allow Renan Calheiros to continue in his post, thus ensuring the PEC 55 austerity reforms pass.

Brazil's Supreme Court backtracked Wednesday and allowed the head of the senate Renan Calheiros to keep his post after he was indicted for embezzlement last week.

Temer Allies in Brazil Senate Act Above the Law, Defy Top Court

The Court overturned an injunction by one of its justices and agreed with Calheiros that he would step out of the presidential line of succession behind the speaker of the lower house, as the nation currently has no vice president.

The senate leadership wanted Calheiros to remain in his post in order to ensure the approval of the controversial constitutional amendment that would freeze public spending for 20 years.

The piece of legislation, known as PEC 55 and previously as PEC 241, has sparked an outcry from the country's labor and social movements, including student movements.

Leftist Senator Jorge Viana of the Workers' Party, which opposes the government's austerity agenda, would have been named leader of the senate if the injunction against Calheiros had stood.

Judge Marco Aurelio de Mello defended his injunction to remove Calheiros based on a majority vote by the court a month ago that no person indicted for a crime could be in the presidential line of succession. The court's majority decided that this ruling does not mean someone indicted has to step down from other positions.

Calheiros, whose mandate in charge of the chamber expires when congress goes into its Christmas recess in a few days, refused to step down on Tuesday, despite a Supreme Court ruling temporarily suspending him from his position. The senate leadership also backed Calheiros and issued a letter defying the injunction from the country's top court.

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Many of Jorge Viana's colleagues from the Workers' Party called for the vote on the constitutional amendment to be suspended. Viana was not present during the first round of voting on PEC 55.

Senator Aecio Neves, an ally of the government of unelected President Michel Temer, expressed confidence that PEC 55 will be approved regardless of who is presiding over the senate.

"This matter will be voted on regardless of what senator is presiding over the Federal Senate since it was in the first round approved by 61 senators," said Neves, as quoted by Carta Capital. "And no attempt to alter this special calendar approved with the understanding of the leaders of this house can be modified."

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