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COLLOR FIGHTING A LOSING BATTLE TO THWART HIS IMPEACHMENT

Most Brazilians want him out, the courts have rebuffed him and even the big-money investors who once adored him are now betting on President Fernando Collor de Mello's downfall.

By any count but his own, Collor's opponents in Congress already have enough votes to impeach him.So why is Collor battling to stay in office when almost everyone except his close associates - and even a few of them, privately - says he is fighting a lost cause?

Accused of profiting from a money-for-favors racket run by his former aides, Collor's fate will be decided Tuesday when Brazil's lower house of Congress is scheduled to vote on whether to put him on trial on corruption charges in the Senate.

If the measure passes, Collor will be suspended from office for six months while the Senate tries him.

Not even his staunchest supporters think he would have much chance of ever returning to power if he lost the Tuesday vote.

Meanwhile, the politicians, academics and journalists swarming about the Brazilian capital have been struggling to discern what makes Collor, 43, fight on against what would seem to be overwhelming odds.

The question has often become a kind of psychoanalysis from afar.

"Collor has left the realm of rational thinking. That's the only way I can account for his behavior," said Aloisio Vasconcelos, a center-left member of Congress and impeachment supporter.

"Collor is suffering from what the psychologists call cognitive dysfunction," said Luiz Pedone, a political scientist at the University of Brasilia. "He is becoming unable to put things together and see reality."

At a private barbecue for supporters last week, Collor exploded into a fury of insults and curses to describe his enemies, shouting and thumping his chest while his backers egged him on with cries of "Give 'em hell."

The incident, widely reported in the local press, served to reinforce the impression among Collor's opponents that he may be losing his balance.

Even Collor's enemies had said as recently as last week that he could survive the impeachment drive by lodging court challenges and granting favors to undecided legislators as a way of wooing them over to his side. But since then, Collor's case has grown more dire.

Brazil's Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that Congress had full authority to impeach him, rejecting motions from the president's lawyers that Congress had overstepped its bounds and that the impeachment plans were improperly drawn up.

The next day, investors reacted to the court ruling as if Collor's days in office were numbered. Flushed with confidence that both Collor and Brazil's political upheaval would soon be finished, traders pushed up stock values by an astonishing 12 percent on the Sao Paulo stock exchange.