Brazil’s President Faces Key Congressional Vote

For Brazilian leaders, August is the cruelest month — and one that now presents a potentially fatal challenge to the presidency of Michel Temer.


In modern times, August has been a devastating month for Brazilian presidents, 31 days in which they have been impeached or resigned. One even committed suicide. Temer’s own predecessor, President Dilma Rousseff , was removed last Aug. 31 for breaking fiscal rules in her management of the budget.
Temer is facing his own August showdown — a vote in Congress’ lower house Wednesday on whether he should be suspended and put on trial over a bribery charge filed against him by Brazil’s attorney general.

Opposition lawmakers feel confident about adding Temer to the list of August casualties, either this week with the bribery charge vote or in a likely obstruction of justice accusation that Attorney General Rodrigo Janot could bring before the end of the month. The latter would bring its own vote by the Chamber of Deputies.

Even if he wins now (Wednesday) it won’t be over,” said Claudio Couto, a political science professor at Fundacao Getulio Vargas, a Sao Paulo-based university and think tank.

Couto said Temer has been using much of his political capital to curry support ahead of Wednesday’s vote, including the promising of billions of dollars in earmarked appropriations for many legislators at a time the country is struggling to emerge from its worst recession in decades.

Temer is accused of receiving bribes indirectly, via a confidant who was caught by police carrying a suitcase with about $150,000 in cash. The case erupted in May when a recording emerged in which Temer apparently tells a meat-packing company executive to keep up paying of hush money to former Chamber of Deputies Speaker Eduardo Cunha, who is serving a 15-year sentence for corruption.

Temer has denied wrongdoing and he adamantly rejected calls for him to resign from across the political spectrum.

Until a few weeks ago, the president appeared to have an ample margin of support among the 513 members of the Chamber of Deputies.

Chamber Speaker Rodrigo Maia, an ally of the president, has said that for much of July, he was confident that Temer would have “a comfortable win” in the vote by the house, where the governing coalition has remained strong enough on some issues to pass legislation. But as August approached, news got worse for the president. Last week, an Ibope institute opinion poll said just 5 percent of Brazilians surveyed approved of Temer.

Adding to the pressure, the vote of every deputy will be public. The member will have to step up to the microphone and say “yes” or “no” on suspending Temer. That could prove risky for the highly unpopular leader because Globo, a dominant TV network across Brazil, has pledged to show the voting live no matter how long it lasts.

The opposition hopes that the prospect of having to support Temer in public might change minds at the last minute, particularly since all members of the chamber are up for re-election next year.

If two-thirds of the lawmakers should vote against Temer, he would be suspended for up to 180 days while a trial was conducted by the Supreme Federal Tribunal, the country’s highest court. A conviction by the court could bring a prison sentence from two to 12 years. In that event, Maia would serve out the presidential term, which ends Dec. 31, 2018.

If two-thirds of deputies voted against suspending Temer, the bribery charge would be suspended.

The pattern of grim Augusts for Brazilian leaders goes back to President Getulio Vargas. A populist dictator between 1930 and 1945, he was elected president in 1951 much to the dismay of his adversaries, throwing the country into political crisis. The nation’s generals demanded his resignation. Vargas ended up shooting himself in the chest on Aug. 24 in the presidential palace that was still in Rio de Janeiro.

A decade later, Janio Quadros won the presidency by a landslide, and then shocked Brazilians with his Aug. 25 resignation over the country’s stance on the Cold War .

President Juscelino Kubitschek, expected to lead Brazil from its then dictatorship, died on Aug. 22, 1976, in an apparent traffic accident that is still viewed with suspicion to this day.

On Aug. 26, 1992, a Chamber of Deputies committee recommended that President Fernando Collor de Mello be impeached. He resigned a few months later.

Oliver Stuenkel, who teaches international relations at the Fundacao Getulio Vargas university, estimates there is 50-50 chance that Temer’s administration will end despite the president’s apparent advantage.

“We all know the August tradition. It is a long month and a lot more can happen,” Stuenkel said. “If there is a second accusation, the risk for him will be substantially bigger.”

Complete Your Refinery Before 2019, Minister Begs Dangote

 The Federal Government has said it relies heavily on the Dangote Refinery to fulfil its promise to Nigerians to end fuel importation by December 2019.

To this end, the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Ibe Kachikwu, who visited the Dangote oil refinery site at Lekki Free Trade Zone, in Lagos, said the government is ready to play its part as a responsible government to assist in making sure the project is completed before the scheduled date.

The minister, who said he was overwhelmed by the dimension of the project, explained that the present government had always believed that the private sector holds the ace in industrialisation efforts of the government, and noted that the belief has been reinforced by what Dangote Group is doing.

He said: “It is good to say that private sector is the answer to Nigeria’s problems with a project as big as this. The challenge I will give you today is that of time; I see your time for completion is 2019 December, but I am sure you will understand my greed if I tell you that the refinery component of this project should come earlier than the set date.

“I have made very firm commitment to Nigerians that I must stop the importation of petroleum products by 2019 and I am going to keep to it. It is absolutely important that we do this early and given the feat that we have achieved in terms of speed of construction and I urge you to do all within you to achieve its completion before the due date.

“I am sure His Excellency President Buhari will be absolutely enthused if he were to find himself, not only crystallizing the policy position we have taken so far, but also coming here himself to come and open a facility as big as this before the end of his first term. Whatever configurations your engineers have come up with, I urge that they go back to the drawing board and get me my refined products before your said date.”

In his response to the government’s challenge, Mr. Dangote said he has accepted the challenge and would do all possible to achieve the feat.

In this regard, the President of Dangote Group, stated: “On the honourable minister’s challenge, we are going to make it by the grace of God. I am sure the minister will support us to make sure that we meet his challenge.

“What the minister is trying to do is the best so far for our country, his own version is that Nigeria should not think of exporting crude; you know the problem we have in Africa is that we only export raw materials, not finished goods, so he is saying that, look, we should all do this by adding value and I pray that even at 2.5 million barrels, we should not export much, in terms of the crude.

“We will go back and see what to do to make this happen by fast tracking our processes since the Minister has assured of government’s cooperation and support”.

Earlier in his welcome address, Mr. Dangote explained that his group is building the world’s largest single line refinery, Petrochemical Complex, and the world’s second largest Urea Fertiliser plant. The refinery, according to him will have the capacity to refine 650,000 barrels of crude oil per day. The Petrochemical Plant will produce 780 KTPA Polypropylene, 500 KTPA of Polyethylene, while the Fertiliser project will produce 3.0 million metric tons per annum (mmtpa) of Urea.

“In addition, we are also building the largest sub-sea pipeline infrastructure in any country in the world, with a length of 1,100 km, to handle 3 billion SCF of gas per day. We also plan to construct a 570 MW power plant in this complex. As a matter of fact, gas from our gas pipeline will augment the natural domestic gas supply and we estimate an additional 12,000MW of power generation can be added to the grid with the additional gas from our system.

“We will be adding value to our economy as all these projects will be creating about 4,000 direct and 145,000 indirect jobs. We will also save over $7.5 billion for Nigeria annually, through import substitution and generate an additional $5.5 billion per annum through exports of the refined petroleum products, fertilizer and petrochemicals. We envisage that these projects, which would cost over $18billion, would be completed in 2019.