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Last Updated: Thursday, 13 September 2007, 07:04 GMT 08:04 UK
Brazil Senate absolves Lula ally
Renan Calheiros, President of the Brazilian Senate
Renan Calheiros is one of the most influential politicians in Brazil
The president of the Brazilian Senate, Renan Calheiros, has narrowly survived a vote to expel him from office following a lengthy corruption scandal.

Senators decided by 40 to 35 to absolve Mr Calheiros of bribery allegations.

Mr Calheiros, an ally of President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, had denied accepting bribes from a lobbyist in exchange for government contracts.

However, he admitted using the lobbyist to pass on child support payments to his former mistress.

Mr Calheiros successfully fought for the vote to be held behind closed doors in hope that he could more easily win support from fellow senators.

The BBC correspondent in Sao Paulo, Gary Duffy, reports the tension surrounding the vote was such that outside the chamber a scuffle broke out between deputies from the lower house of Congress and security officials. Amid chaotic scenes, one congresswoman was said to have been kicked and the acting president of Senate was punched.

The vote comes weeks after it was decided that 40 people, including high-ranking officials, should face charges over an illegal fund-raising scheme.

Presidential ally

Mr Calheiros has denied accepting bribes from the Mendes Junior construction company, and said it was his own money that its lobbyist had passed on to his former mistress.

Renan Calheiros (L) with President Luis Inacio Lula da Silva
Renan Calheiros (L) is a staunch ally of President Lula de Silva (R)

However, the admission prompted questions about how he was able to afford generous contributions on a salary of just over $6,000 (2,970) a month.

Mr Calheiros said he had income from a number of farms, although several people said to be his customers told Brazilian TV they had never done business with him.

He has dismissed calls for him to resign, saying: "I have fought for 120 days... to prove my truth, my innocence. Resignation makes no sense. It would be a lack of respect for the country, for the Senate."

The Brazilian president has always denied knowledge of any corruption schemes, and has retained his personal popularity.

President Lula has indicated, however, that he thought the case of Mr Calheiros, who had been an important ally, needed to be resolved, as the controversy threatened to undermine important legislation.

Even though he survived Wednesday's vote, Mr Calheiros could face three other investigations requested by opposition parties.


SEE ALSO
Brazil moves against top senator
06 Sep 07 |  Americas
Q&A: Brazil corruption scandal
04 Sep 07 |  Americas
Lula ally faces corruption trial
28 Aug 07 |  Americas
Brazil court considers graft case
23 Aug 07 |  Americas
Country profile: Brazil
13 Jul 07 |  Country profiles

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