President Dilma Rousseff Impeached by Brazilian Senate
Brazil’s first female president Dilma Rousseff has been thrown out of office by the country’s corruption-tainted senate after a grueling impeachment trial that ends 13 years of Workers’ party rule.
Following a crushing 61 to 20 defeat in the upper house, she will be replaced for the remaining two years and three months of her term by Michel Temer, a centre-right patrician who was among the leaders of the conspiracy against his former running mate.
A separate vote will be held on whether Rousseff will be barred from public office for eight years.
Despite never losing an election, Rousseff – who first won power in 2010 – has seen her support among the public and in congress diminish as a result of a sharp economic decline, government paralysis and a massive bribery scandal that has implicated almost all the major parties.
For more than 10 months, the leftist leader has fought efforts to impeach her for frontloading funds for government social programmes and issuing spending budget decrees without congressional approval ahead of her reelection in 2014. The opposition claimed that these constituted a “crime of responsibility”. Rousseff denies this and claims the charges – which were never levelled at previous administrations who did the same thing – have been trumped up by opponents who were unable to accept the Workers’ party’s victory.
In keeping with her pledge to fight until the end for the 54 million voters who put her in office, Rousseff – a former Marxist guerrilla – ended her presidency this week with a gritty 14-hour defence of her government’s achievements and a sharply worded attack on the “usurpers” and “coup-mongers” who ejected her from power without an election.
Her lawyer, José Eduardo Cardozo, said the charges were trumped up to punish the president’s support for a huge corruption investigation that has snared many of Brazil’s elite. This follows secret recordings of Romero Jucá, the majority leader of the senate and a key Temer ally, plotting to remove the president to halt the Lava Jato (car wash) investigation into kickbacks at state oil company Petrobras.
While Rousseff was in the upper chamber, her critics heard her in respectful silence. But in a final session in her absence on Tuesday, they lined up to condemn her. As in an earlier lower house impeachment debate, the senators – many of whom are accused of far greater crimes – clearly revelled in the spotlight of their ten-minute declarations. Reflecting the growing power of rightwing evangelism, many invoked the name of God. One cited Winston Churchill. Another sang. Another appeared to be in tears.
“I apologise to the president, not for having done what did, because I could not have done anything else, but because I know her situation is not easy,” claimed a sobbing Janaína Paschoal, one of the original co-authors of the impeachment petition. “I think she understands I did all this in consideration of her grandchildren.”
The result was never in doubt, though Workers’ party figurehead and former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva – who also faces a trial of his own – had lobbied hard until the last moment to try to swing enough senators to avoid impeachment.
Interim President Michel Temer, the vice president until Rousseff stepped aside, will assume the presidency and will face reelection in 2018.
It is the second time a Brazil president has been impeached. The decision was widely expected despite efforts to stop the vote.
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