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Cablegate: Senate President Steps Down -- Finally

VZCZCXRO4524
RR RUEHRG
DE RUEHBR #2233 3392029
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 052029Z DEC 07
FM AMEMBASSY BRASILIA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 0587
INFO RUEHRG/AMCONSUL RECIFE 7456
RUEHSO/AMCONSUL SAO PAULO 1276
RUEHRI/AMCONSUL RIO DE JANEIRO 5527
RUEHBU/AMEMBASSY BUENOS AIRES 5152
RUEHMN/AMEMBASSY MONTEVIDEO 7124
RUEHAC/AMEMBASSY ASUNCION 6433
RUEHSG/AMEMBASSY SANTIAGO 0029
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC

UNCLAS BRASILIA 002233

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS
NOT FOR INTERNET

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV BR
SUBJECT: SENATE PRESIDENT STEPS DOWN -- FINALLY

REFS: A) BRASILIA 1745; B) BRASILIA 1991

1. (SBU) Senator Renan Calheiros (PMDB, Brazilian Democratic
Movement Party, government coalition; of Alagoas) resigned as Senate
President on December 4 after facing months of mounting accusations
of ethics violations. His resignation was an apparent quid pro quo
with his fellow Senators in exchange for acquittal, allowing him to
keep his Senate seat. Shortly after resigning, Calheiros survived a
plenary vote by 48-29 on a second set of ethics charges. In
mid-September he survived a similar vote (ref a).

2. (SBU) Calheiros took leave from the presidency in October (ref
b) after surviving a plenary vote on whether to remove him from the
Senate and ban him from politics for eight years. He still faces
votes on several other ethics charges, and a conviction on any one
would result in the loss of his Senate seat and political rights.

3. (SBU) According to customary Senate practice the presidency
belongs to the largest party, currently the PMDB, with 20 seats.
Jockeying for succession started long ago, and while many names have
emerged in the media as possible successors, there is still no
consensus candidate. Many names from the PMDB's 20-senator
delegation have been suggested in the media, only to disappear
because the individual was unacceptable to the opposition, is under
federal investigation for malfeasance and did not want to come under
public scrutiny (two such cases), did not want the job (former
president Jose Sarney), or was unacceptable to the government side.
As a result, the solution may be the lowest common denominator, an
uncontroversial figure acceptable to many but truly satisfactory to
few. The front runner appears to be Senator Garibaldi Alves Filho
(PMDB-Rio Grande do Norte), who is not especially known for
leadership qualities but has actively campaigned for the job.

4. (SBU) Opposition politicians and many opinion leaders had hoped
for a conviction to redeem the Senate's tarnished image and restore
some public confidence in the national Congress. With Calheiros's
resignation from the Presidency and another acquittal under his
belt, it's a draw between the political forces: Calheiros and the
PMDB are spared the disgrace of his removal from the Senate, while
opposition Senators are pleased to see him out of the Presidency,
but will continue to try to get him removed from office on the many
remaining ethics charges. The Calheiros case is now assured to drag
on into next February or March.

CHICOLA

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