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Brazil – Brazil’s legislators vote to impeach President

By - 19 April 2016

President Dilma Rousseff’s future looks increasingly uncertain after the lower house voted overwhelmingly to remove her from office on Sunday April 17.

Her fate is now in the hands of the senate after voting ended late on Sunday evening. Two-thirds majority was needed for the case against her to go to the upper house and after a long session 367 voted out of 513 deputies voted in in favour of impeachment. The impeachment proceedings surround accusations that Rousseff tampered with the accounts to maintain spending and shore up support in order to help secure her re-election in 2014.

There were seven abstentions and two absences, and 137 deputies voted against the move which was put forward by conservative politicians and led by house speaker Eduardo Cunha.

Only in the second year of her second four-year term in office it was the scandal at Petrobras, the state-owned oil company, that has helped generate support for Rousseff’s removal. According to the ongoing investigation into the affair a total of US$2bn was paid in bribes to corrupt government officials. So far 179 people have been charged and 93 convictions have been secured. Former Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva was brought in for questioning on March 4 which set off the political turmoil now being experienced nationwide.

The scandal revolves around accusations that construction firms overcharged for works paid for by the state owned company while executives from the company pocketed the proceeds from inflated contracts. They in turn rewarded government officials inside Petrobras with bribes who then passed much of the proceeds on to politicians and several major political parties to be used in election campaigns.

If impeached Brazil faces two years of political uncertainty until Presidential elections are held in 2018. Early next month, the Senate will vote on whether to put the president on trial. If the vote passes, she will be suspended and replaced by Vice-President Michel Temer. Temer would serve out Rousseff’s term until 2018 pending her trial.

For now it is unclear how this could affect gaming legislation now being discussed in the Brazilian Congress. According to senators present at a meeting with President Dilma Rousseff in February, the President is in favour of new legislation which would green light gaming in Brazil. However Rousseff has not publicly come out in support of green lighting casinos and pro gaming legislation is not tied to her political future. In addition consensus is growing for the new bill and it could well go ahead despite the growing crisis.

Brazil’s economy has slumped to a 25-year low with GDP falling by 3.8 per cent in 2015. Casinos are being seen as a way to help Brazil weather the present crisis. The government estimates that the new law could generate raise R$20bn in the first year. The text of the new version of the bill would allow for 35 casinos, with at least one per state while some states would be permitted to have as many as three, depending on the population and the economic outlook in each state.

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