Brazilian Senate votes to impeach embattled president

Brazil's Senate votes to indict suspended President Dilma Rousseff and put her on trial for breaking budget laws.
The trial could see President Dilma Rousseff permanently removed from office, and end 13 years of rule by her Workers' Party.
The trial could see President Dilma Rousseff permanently removed from office, and end 13 years of rule by her Workers' Party.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

BRASILIA • The Brazilian Senate has voted to hold an impeachment trial for suspended President Dilma Rousseff.

The trial could see her permanently removed from office.

With the eyes of the world on the ongoing Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, senators in the capital Brasilia yesterday voted 59-21 against the leftist leader in a raucous, 20-hour session presided over by Chief Justice Ricardo Lewandowski.

The Senate suspended Ms Rousseff, the South American nation's first female president, on May 12, over accusations of illegal accounting practices and fiddling with the Budget to mask a slumping economy. Ms Rousseff, 68, has likened the impeachment drive to a putsch by her political enemies.

A conviction would end 13 years of rule by her Workers' Party, and allow interim president Michel Temer to serve out the rest of the term until 2018.

Her opponents needed only a simple majority in the 81-seat Senate to put her on trial for manipulating government accounts and spending without congressional approval, which they say helped her win re-election in 2014.

A verdict is expected at the end of the month. Two-thirds of the Senate must vote in favour for Ms Rousseff's conviction to stand.

The vote showed that the movement to oust Ms Rousseff has gained strength in the Senate, which voted 55-22 in May to take up the impeachment proceedings initiated in the Lower House last December.

It also looked like the end was near for Ms Rousseff. This will strengthen Mr Temer's hand as he strives to establish his legitimacy and stabilise Brazil politically and economically.

The uncertainty has hampered his efforts to plug a fiscal crisis inherited from Ms Rousseff, who is blamed for driving the economy into what could be its worst recession since the 1930s. She has denied any wrongdoing and denounced her impeachment as a right-wing conspiracy that used an accounting technicality as a pretext to illegally remove a government.

"The cards are marked in this game. There is no trial, just a sentence that has already been written," said Workers' Party Senator Jorge Viana in a speech. The impeachment, he added, was driven by the elite, who oppose social welfare gains.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 11, 2016, with the headline 'Brazilian Senate votes to impeach embattled president'. Print Edition | Subscribe