85% of Brazilians Want Their Senate Chief Ousted from Congress

Senator Renan Calheiros An opinion poll carried out by Ipsos for Brazil's daily newspaper O Estado de S. Paulo shows that the Brazilian population is fed up with corruption among politicians. 91% believe that the president of the Senate, Renan Calheiros, should be condemned by his peers in Congress.

Calheiros has been involved in several cases of corruption and, in the middle of a bitter fight to keep his post, announced Thursday, October 13, that he is getting a 45-day leave of absence.

The Ipsos survey shows that 85% of the Brazilian people not only want Calheiros ousted from the Senate presidency but also stripped from his senate seat. A mere 5% of the population say that he should continue being a senator.

Most Brazilian senators seem to believe that Calheiros won't be able to resume the Senate's presidency once his leave ends. For senator Tasso Jereissati from the opposition party PSDB, "he is in no condition to come back, he must resign."

Senator Aloizio Mercadante, from the ruling party PT (Workers Party) released a note saying that  Calheiros "lacks the conditions of once again presiding the Senate, and the future of his term of office depends on the consistency of the charges against him and his ability to defend himself."

For Mercadante, "this leave of absence does not solve the Senate's serious crisis and does not change the process of judging the  charges dealing with parliamentary decorum that have been brought against him in the Ethics Committee, although it prevents the direct interference by senator Renan Calheiros, as the Senate's president, as it was happening up to now."

Tião Viana, a senator from the Workers Party, will be the president of the senate while Calheiros is away.

Calheiros, a senator from the northeastern state of Alagoas went on Brazilian national television to announce his leave of absence. He protested innocence and denied charges that he took bribes from a construction company bidding on government contracts.

He used the argument that he is completely innocent and that he was leaving Congress for a short while just to prove that he doesn't need his post in order to mount his defense.

In a secret session last month the full senate voted to keep Calheiros as senate president. The senator, however is still facing allegations, in three separate cases in the Senate's ethics committee, that he committed  fraud and embezzlement.

Calheiros is just the latest ally of Brazilian president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva to be ousted or to step down due to a scandal. The senator belongs to the PMDB (Party of Democratic Brazilian Movement), Brazil's largest party,  which is part of the government's coalition.

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