Brazil report calls for expulsions

BBC News story, 16 May 2001.
President Fernando Henrique Cardoso [Picture omitted] is a former ally one of the accused senators.

A Brazilian congressional report has recommended that two senators, including a former powerful government ally, be expelled for tampering with a secret electronic voting panel.

The report, which could form the basis of a Senate vote to impeach the senators, charged they had broken "parliamentary decorum" in the political scandal that has gripped Brazil in recent weeks.

Resignation is not an option
Senator Antonio Carlos Magalhaes

Senator Antonio Carlos Magalhaes, a powerful former ally of President Fernando Henrique Cardoso, and Senator Jose Roberto Arruda were accused by the former head of the Senate computer system of ordering her to tamper with the voting panel last year to obtain a list of how legislators voted.

The case is one of many that have created a political storm for the government since February, threatening the cohesion of the four-party ruling coalition and delaying congressional passage of free-market reforms.

Reaction uncertain

Analysts say it is too early to conclude whether the congressional committee probing the case will heed the report's recommendation, ignore it or recommend some other form of punishment.

An energy crisis has helped steal some of the focus away from the corruption accusations of recent months.

Mr Magalhaes is one of Brazil's most powerful politicians, he has held office as minister, state governor and, most recently, president of the Senate during every government - both military and civilian - for the last 30 years.

Mr Magalhaes said he would not resign to avoid impeachment, which would bar him from holding public office for eight years.

"Resignation is not an option," he said.

'Grounds for impeachment'

The other senator, Jose Roberto Arruda, was government leader in the Senate until just a few days ago.

Mr Magalhaes denies requesting the tampering while Mr Arruda admits it took place but that he only "requested" and did not "order" it to take place.

Senator Roberto Saturnino Braga, who wrote the report, said there were sufficient grounds "to justify the opening of impeachment proceedings."

The committee will vote on whether to follow the report's recommendation on 23 May.

If it does, the expulsion of the two senators will have to be voted upon by the Senate.

Brazil's Senate has only once before expelled a senator, last year, ironically, Mr Magalhaes and Mr Arruda allegedly ordered the computer tampering to learn how senators voted on that occasion.

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