Brazil Senate expected to dismiss Rousseff in impeachment vote
SAO PAULO – Brazil’s Senate was expected to vote on Wednesday to dismiss President Dilma Rousseff, finalizing a nine-month impeachment process and confirming the country’s shift to the right with the end of 13 years of leftist Workers Party rule.
Rousseff’s supporters seemed resigned to the likelihood that more than two-thirds of the 81-seat Senate would convict her of breaking budget laws, while opponents hailed the chance to turn the page on a drawn-out economic and political crisis.
Brazil’s first female president has denied any wrongdoing and said the impeachment process was aimed at protecting the interests of the country’s economic elite.
If she is convicted as expected, a tricky transition would fall to her conservative former vice president, Michel Temer, who has served as interim president since the Senate trial began in May and will finish out the term through to 2018.
Temer has vowed to pull the economy out of its worst recession since the 1930s and implement austerity measures to plug a growing budget deficit that cost Brazil its investment-grade credit rating last year.
But even an overwhelming vote to remove Rousseff would not mean an easy path ahead for Temer, as there are signs of clear resistance in Congress to his proposals to cap public spending and reform public pensions.
His government also risks entanglement in a sweeping investigation of kickbacks at state oil company Petrobras that already ensnared dozens of politicians in Rousseff’s coalition.
The scandal, which has tarnished Temer’s fractious Brazilian Democratic Movement Party, could hobble efforts to restore stability to Brazil’s politics and confidence in its economy.
Temer is so sure of the trial’s outcome that he has scheduled an address to the nation on Wednesday.
He then plans to fly to China for a summit of the G20 group of leading economies, hoping to secure pledges of trade and investment, his aides say.
Rousseff’s popularity fell into single figures this year due to the Petrobras graft scandal and the deep recession that many Brazilians blame on her government’s interventionist policies.
In an emotional speech on Monday, Rousseff compared the trial to her persecution under Brazil’s 1964-1985 military dictatorship, when she was tortured by security services as a member of a leftist urban guerrilla group.
If the Senate convicts Rousseff, she would become the first Brazilian leader dismissed from office since 1992, when Fernando Collor de Mello resigned before a final vote in his impeachment trial for corruption. -Reuters