Brazil impeachment of Dilma Rousseff opens diplomatic rift in South America

Ms Dilma Rousseff speaks after being stripped of Brazil's presidency in a Senate impeachment vote on Aug 31, 2016.
Ms Dilma Rousseff speaks after being stripped of Brazil's presidency in a Senate impeachment vote on Aug 31, 2016. PHOTO: AFP

BRASILIA (REUTERS) - The dismissal of Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff upset relations with leftist South American governments on Wednesday (Aug 31) as Venezuela, Ecuador and Bolivia recalled their ambassadors to protest against what they called a "coup" and Brasilia responded in kind.

The Brazilian Senate voted 61-20 to convict the country's first female president of illegally using money from state banks to bankroll public spending. The vote ended 13 years of progressive Workers Party rule and brought to power Ms Rousseff's conservative vice-president, Mr Michel Temer.

Leftist leaders in Caracas, Quito and La Paz have been consistent allies of Ms Rousseff and her predecessor, Mr Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, including Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, who said the United States was behind the impeachment push.

"This coup d'etat isn't just against Dilma. It is against Latin America and the Caribbean. It is against us," Mr Maduro said in a televised speech.

 

"This is an attack against the popular, progressive, leftist movement."

Brazilian Foreign Minister Jose Serra defended the constitutionality of Ms Rousseff's impeachment and questioned the legitimacy of Mr Maduro's government.

"The Venezuelan government has no moral standing to talk about democracy, since they don't have a democratic regime," he said in comments posted to a government website, in which he accused Venezuela of holding political prisoners.

A political crisis in Venezuela has already heightened tensions with the Temer government, which took over on an interim basis when Ms Rousseff was suspended in May to face trial.

Earlier this month, diplomats from Brazil and Uruguay traded barbs over the latter's accusation that Brasilia was trying to"buy" its vote to block Venezuela from taking the rotating presidency of the region's Mr Mercosur trade bloc.

Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay have refused to allow Venezuela to take the Mercosur presidency, arguing that it has not complied with the minimum requirements to belong to the common market.