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The potential impeachment of Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff moved a step closer on Wednesday with the release of a congressional report saying there were indications she broke the law by allegedly manipulating the public accounts.
The presentation of the report at a meeting of a special committee in congress tasked with analysing the impeachment motion was accompanied by a noisy exchange of insults by lawmakers for and against Ms Rousseff, with police setting up barriers to prevent them coming to blows.
The committee`s chairman said it had found “serious indications of felonious personal conduct by the president of the republic … that at least in this preliminary judgment are of sufficient gravity to justify the installation of a process of impeachment”.
Ms Rousseff denies the allegations. She and her ruling leftist Workers` Party, or PT, are fighting for their political futures, besieged by the impeachment motion, a sinking economy and a corruption scandal at state-owned oil company Petrobras.
Capitalising on mass protests against the president in March, the opposition is seeking to rush through the impeachment motion.
This alleges her government borrowed from the state banks for some budgetary payments that should have been footed directly by the treasury, in the process disguising the poor state of Brazil’s public finances.
Ms Rousseff has denied this is grounds for impeachment and has called attempts by the opposition to push through the motion a “coup”.
The presidential blog said on Wednesday the budgetary payments, known as “pedaladas”, did not amount to “a crime of responsibility”, a breach of personal conduct on behalf of the president needed as a pretext for impeachment under the constitution. “Big or small, pedaladas are not a crime,” it said.
The congressional report recommending her impeachment is expected to be put to a vote in the special committee next Monday.
After this, it will be forwarded to a plenary session of congress for discussion and voting, possibly by the middle of this month.
Brazil's Rousseff fights for survival
The 513-seat lower house must approve the impeachment motion by a two-thirds majority for it to move to the senate, where the formal political trial of the president would be held.
The committee report comes as markets, which view any removal of Ms Rousseff as positive for the economy, are becoming nervous that the impeachment process might falter.
The Ibovespa benchmark stock index lost nearly 2 per cent while Brazil`s currency, the real, weakened as much as 0.8 per cent against the dollar before reversing its losses on the back of a commodity price rally.
The market movements followed an announcement by the minority PP party that its leaders were sticking with the government.
The PP is one of a large group of smaller centrist parties that the government is wooing with promises of ministerial positions to help it avoid impeachment.
Ms Rousseff must gather the support or abstentions of just 1