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President Dilma Rousseff fights to keep Brazil coalition together

Published 31/03/2016

Brazil's president Dilma Rousseff smiles during an event at the Planalto Presidential Palace in Brasilia (AP)
Brazil's president Dilma Rousseff smiles during an event at the Planalto Presidential Palace in Brasilia (AP)

President Dilma Rousseff looked to shore up the support of parties still in her governing coalition after Brazil's biggest quit, complicating her fight to fend off impeachment proceedings.

The political crisis comes as a plunging economy makes reforms difficult and has some politicians worried about hosting the Olympics in August.

A day after the Brazilian Democratic Movement Party announced its members would immediately give up their six cabinet posts and some 600 government jobs, it appeared at least three of its ministers planned to stay in Ms Rousseff's government.

The newspaper O Estado de S Paulo said health minister Marcelo Castro and science and technology minister Celso Pansera wanted to work out a deal that would let them remain in the cabinet, while agriculture minister Katia Abreu might sever her ties with the Democratic Movement.

Ms Rousseff was said to be planning to use posts vacated by the Democratic Movement to strengthen her support from the six parties that remain in the governing coalition with her left-leaning Workers' Party.

She needs to secure at least 172 of the 513 votes in the lower house of Congress to halt impeachment proceedings against her over allegations her administration violated fiscal rules.

A vote on the matter is expected in mid-April, and without the Democratic Movement's 69 votes, Ms Rousseff's chances of surviving the vote appear diminished.

Speaking at an event for the government's public housing programme, Ms Rousseff again lashed out at the impeachment process as an attempted "coup", saying she had not committed any crime that would warrant her ousting.

"What we're discussing is impeachment without responsibility for a crime, and without responsibility for a crime. That's a coup," she said to a crowd of enthusiastic supporters.

Ms Rousseff has seen her popularity plummet amid a sprawling corruption scandal at state-run oil giant Petrobras that has been moving closer to her inner circle.

The president, a former chairwoman of Petrobras' board, has not been implicated in the alleged bribery scheme, which prosecutors call the biggest ever uncovered in Brazil.

Her standing also has been hurt by Brazilian anger that the country has sunk into its worst recession in decades, which has put people out of work and is cutting into tax revenues.

The acting governor of Rio de Janeiro state, whose biggest city is hosting the August Olympics, warned that the state's finances are "tragic" and suggested selling off property to shore up barren coffers.

Francisco Dornelles told the newspaper O Globo Dornelles it would take a big effort for the state to meet all its obligations and that officials are looking for credit and other measures to bolster diminishing revenues.

"This is the worst situation I've seen in my political career," he said.

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