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Rousseff’s attorney: Brazil is like ‘House of Cards’

Jose Eduardo Cardozo, head of Dilma Rousseff’s defence team, discusses the impeachment case and the issues behind it.

Brazil, the world’s fifth largest country, is in turmoil. It’s a nation submerged in economic recession and corruption while its president has been forced out of the presidential palace to face an impeachment trial, betrayed by her own coalition.

Accused of transferring money from the state-owned Bank of Brazil – without the approval of congress – to cover a massive budget deficit, Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff is fighting for her political life.

According to our constitution, the impeachment process in Brazil is both legal and political, so this process can only include political considerations about the propriety of removing the president, if there is a legal basis for it. And in this case there, is none. We don't have a parliamentary system. We have a presidential system. And therefore, without having committed an illicit act, a crime of responsibility, we can't suspend a president. Therefore, we insist that this decision, if completed, is tantamount to a coup d'etat.

by Jose Eduardo Cardozo, Brazil's attorney general

It reads like a political thriller, with a seemingly endless circle of now-familiar names and companies at the centre of widespread corruption allegations. In fact, 60 percent of Brazilian lawmakers are allegedly involved in illegal acts.

Eduardo Cunha, the powerful house speaker who orchestrated Rousseff’s removal, is one of them. He is himself facing trial for taking up to $40m from the state oil company Petrobras, the country’s largest company, which Dilma Rousseff had worked for before she became president.

While Rousseff hasn’t been accused of personal enrichment at that time, many believe she knew, or should have known, that huge sums were being funnelled from Petrobras while she was the chairwoman of the board.

But none of this, she argues, amounts to an impeachable offence. Rousseff insists she is the victim of a political coup d’etat triggered by a thirst for revenge, and made worse by a dramatic slowdown in economic growth.

Now abandoned even by her vice president, who has taken over her office, Rousseff has one trusted ally: the man she appointed attorney general, who is today leading her defence team.

Jose Eduardo Cardozo is a  passionate defender of the president, even though she caved into pressure to remove him as justice minister in February when he refused to block corruption investigations against members of their own party. When her trial begins, he must convince the senate that Rousseff is innocent. 

On this episode of Talk to Al Jazeera, we go to the presidential residence – which is now a sort of bunker for the impeached president – to meet the man responsible for what many call “mission impossible” – bringing Dilma Rousseff back to office.

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