Latin America & Caribbean

Brazilian officials resign in new blow to Dilma Roussef government

President Dilma Rousseff (L) greets Sports Minister George Hilton during a ceremony to announce measures to modernize Brazilian soccer at the Planalto Palace in Brasilia, Brazil, in this March 19, 2015 file photo. Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Sports Minister George Hilton (right) resigned from Ms Rousseff's government

Two more senior Brazilian officials have resigned in the latest blow to the government of President Dilma Rousseff.

They are Sports Minister George Hilton and Col Adilson Moreira, who was organising security at the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro next August.

Col Moreira reportedly wrote that he was ashamed the country was being led by "an unscrupulous group".

The resignations come as Ms Rousseff battles for her government's survival in an impeachment process.

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Col Moreira led the National Force for Public Security, whose members will guard sporting venues during the Olympics.

Brazilian media reported he had sent an email to his colleagues criticising President Rousseff and other senior officials.

Brazilian officials said the planning for the Olympic Games would not be affected by Col Moreira's and Mr Hilton's resignations.

Supporters of the president marched on Thursday evening in a number of Brazilian cities to show their opposition to the impeachment proceedings.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Supporters of President Dilma Rousseff protested in a number of cities
Image copyright AFP
Image caption Many wore facemasks depicting the troubled president

On Monday, Tourism Minister Henrique Eduardo Alves handed in his letter of resignation, pre-empting his PMDB party's split from the governing coalition.

The PMDB was the largest partner in the governing coalition and its exit could deprive President Rousseff of crucial votes she needs to block impeachment proceedings against her.

She is expected to announce sweeping changes to her cabinet on Friday to replace up to seven ministers from the PMDB party.

Her critics say she is trying to buy the votes of smaller parties by offering them posts in the cabinet.

Congress is expected to start voting next month on whether to remove her from office over allegations that she manipulated accounts to hide a growing deficit.

Image copyright EPA
Image caption Former President Lula da Silva was handed a boost by a court on Thursday

If 172 out of the 513 members of the lower house of Congress vote against her impeachment, the proceedings will be shelved.

But if 342 members vote for it, President Rousseff will be suspended for 180 days and Vice-President Michel Temer of the PMDB party will become interim president.

The impeachment would then by reviewed by the upper house, the Senate, and a final decision be taken in October.

Ms Rousseff has denied any wrongdoing and has likened the moves to impeach her to an attempted coup.

Lula boosted

Separately, former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva continues to be investigated as part of a corruption case involving the state-run oil company Petrobras.

But on Thursday, he was handed a boost as Brazil's Supreme Court ruled it would take over the case.

It had previously been led by a lower court magistrate, Sergio Moro, whom Lula had accused of unfairly targeting him.

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