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  • Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff swears in Lula da Silva as her chief of staff, March 17, 2016.

    Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff swears in Lula da Silva as her chief of staff, March 17, 2016. | Photo: EFE

Published 17 March 2016

“This is how coup d'etat usually starts,” the president said during her swearing-in speech.

President Dilma Rousseff on Thursday swore in charismatic former Workers’ Party President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva as her chief of staff with the job of cementing support for her in Congress, just as opposition politicians attempted to begin impeachment proceedings against the president.

Brazil’s lower house of Congress launched the impeachment proceedings against President Rousseff Thursday by approving the creation of a 65-member committee that will study whether there are grounds to remove her due to alleged government budget irregularities.

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Rousseff is currently facing challenges from the right-wing opposition who have begun a campaign calling for her impeachment, a process which had been stalled previously over the intransigence of the head of the lower chamber, Eduardo Cunha, who is facing his own challenge to his authority.

On Thursday, lawmakers voted 433-1 to create the committee that is tasked with reporting to the full lower house. Approval from two-thirds of the 513 members of the lower house would be needed to proceed to a formal trial in the Senate.

Lawmakers approved a slate of names from all parties represented in Congress. Leonardo Picciani, leader in the lower house of the centrist PMDB party, which is divided over supporting or ousting Rousseff, said the list was impartial.

House Speaker Cunha, a prominent opposition figure and long time right-wing critic of the president who is under investigation over corruption charges, said this week that he will speed up proceedings as much as possible. The committee will be formally installed Thursday evening, when it will select its chairman.

During the swearing-in ceremony, Rousseff condemned the opposition sectors that protested the day before against Lula's appointment, as some gathered in front of the Presidential Palace demanding him to quit.

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“This is how coup d'etat usually starts,” she said during her speech.

On Thursday, a federal judge in Brasilia issued at the same moment an order for preventive measures, de facto annulling Lula's appointment. Nevertheless Rousseff's administration appealed the measure, requiring now the approval of a superior court.

Her administration also criticized Judge Sergio Moro for releasing on Wednesday a taped conversation between Rousseff and Lula as they discussed appointing Lula as Rousseff's chief of staff.

The release of the recording, said the presidency in a statement, harms the state's rights and guarantees. The state will resort to all the possible judicial and administrative measures so this violation of the law can be fixed, it added.

The opposition request to impeach Rousseff alleges that her government manipulated accounts in 2014 to allow her to boost public spending in the run-up to her re-election in 2014.

Last week, President Dilma Rousseff rejected calls for her resignation amid the political storm, blaming her opponents for causing a crisis that has damaged the Brazilian economy.

"No one has the right to ask for the resignation of a legitimately elected president," Rousseff told reporters, indicating she has no intention of quitting.

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