Brazilian opposition leader: Government’s power is waning

LISBON, Portugal (AP) — The leader of Brazil’s main opposition party contended Thursday that embattled President Dilma Rousseff is losing her grip on power amid a corruption scandal that is compromising her ability to pull Latin America’s biggest country out of its worst recession in decades.

“What we can see happening in Brazil is that the government has lost its legitimacy, the ability to run the country,” said Sen. Aecio Neves, the leader of the Social Democracy Party, during a visit to Lisbon, Portugal.

Impeachment proceedings over allegations that Rousseff’s administration infringed fiscal rules have eroded her political support and made it hard for her to pass legislation that could improve the economy.

Rousseff has said she did not commit any crime that would warrant her ousting, but supporters of her coalition government are deserting her. The biggest coalition partner, the Democratic Movement Party, announced Wednesday it was quitting the government.

“There is no easy way out” of the crisis, said Neves, who narrowly lost to Rousseff in a 2014 presidential runoff.

Vice President Michel Temer is first in line to assume the presidency in case of impeachment. Neves said his party wanted Brazil to maintain its schedule of presidential elections in 2018, insisting that Temer’s interim government should be staffed by the best-qualified people, not party faithful.

Neves was attending a three-day legal conference at Lisbon University’s Law Faculty. The usually obscure academic event drew attention because it included other Brazilian participants seen as opponents of Rousseff. They included Supreme Court Justice Gilmar Mendes, who recently blocked former Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva’s nomination to a Cabinet post, and Sen. Jose Serra, an ally of Neves.

About 50 people, mostly Brazilians, protested outside the event against the possibility of impeachment, claiming Brazil’s democracy is being hijacked by unscrupulous politicians.