Rousseff impeachment vote: Brazil Senate set to decide

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(BBC) Brazil’s Senate is debating whether President Dilma Rousseff should face a full impeachment trial.

If a simple majority votes in favour, as is expected, Ms Rousseff will be automatically suspended from office.

Ms Rousseff made a last-ditch appeal to the Supreme Court to stop proceedings, but the move was rejected.

The president is accused of illegally manipulating finances to hide a growing public deficit ahead of her re-election in 2014, which she denies.

Wednesday’s debate started an hour late. Of the first 12 senators to speak, only one argued against an impeachment trial.

Sixty-eight Senators have registered to speak in the debate.

Brazilians are following the Senate debate on national television  (AP photo)
Brazilians are following the Senate debate on national television (AP photo)

Senator Telmario Mota of the Democratic Workers’ Party said that “this impeachment was born of revenge, hatred and revenge”.

He also argued that Brazil’s Congress was less popular than President Rousseff “and yet she will have to pay the price”.

“What a country is this?” he asked.

Before him, 11 senators said they would vote for the impeachment trial.

They included former football player Romario, who is now a senator for the Brazilian Socialist Party, who said the country was going through “a very serious crisis”.

One of the most passionate speakers in favour of the impeachment trial was Magno Malta of the Party of the Republic.

He compared the government of Ms Rousseff to “gangrene” which needed to be removed to make Brazil healthy again.

But the atmosphere in the upper house is a far cry from the packed lower house session on 17 April. Many seats are empty and senators can be heard chatting amongst themselves while the speeches are going on.

What has been a long, damaging and divisive political process is at a critical moment as the 81 members of the Brazilian Senate prepare to vote on whether or not to subject Dilma Rousseff to a full impeachment trial.

The beleaguered president denies the charges against her – that she illegally concealed the scale of the budget deficit. Brazil’s first female leader says that what is really happening, first in the lower house of Congress and now in the Senate, is a judicial coup by her political opponents to remove her from office.

Whatever the real reasons for impeachment, there is no doubt that Ms Rousseff’s leftist Workers’ Party is deeply unpopular, with Brazil in the middle of an economic crisis and her government embroiled in a huge corruption scandal.

In a recent interview with the BBC, Ms Rousseff appeared to acknowledge that she would be suspended pending an impeachment trial but she said would fight to clear her name and fully intended to resume the final two years of her presidency.

Brazil's President Dilma Rouseff
Brazil’s President Dilma Rouseff

If the vote goes against her, Ms Rousseff will be replaced by Vice-President Michel Temer while the impeachment trial lasts.

She says Mr Temer is a traitor who is taking part in a political coup against her democratically elected government.

Mr Temer was spending Wednesday in meetings with allies, Brazil’s O Globo newspaper reported.

If the vote is in favour of an impeachment trial, Ms Rousseff is expected to dismiss her entire Cabinet on Wednesday, governing party Senator Humberto Costa was quoted by Reuters news agency as saying.

That would allow Mr Temer to appoint his own Cabinet when he takes power on Thursday.

Brazil’s Attorney General Eduardo Cardozo, the government’s top lawyer, said on Tuesday that the Supreme Court should annul impeachment proceedings, arguing that they were politically motivated.

The court rejected the appeal on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, Ms Rousseff has promised to fight to the end.

“I will not resign. That never crossed my mind,” she said during a speech at a women’s rights conference in the capital Brasilia on Tuesday.

 

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