Brazil Senate Votes for Impeachment Trial as Rousseff Vows to Fight 'Coup'
Brazil's leftist president suspended from duties as she warns that democracy is at stake
Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff was suspended for up to six months on Thursday as the country's senate voted in favor of an impeachment trial.
The senate voted 55 to 22 to suspend Rousseff in what one politician called "the saddest day for Brazil's young democracy."
Rousseff, leader of the leftist Workers' Party (PT) and Brazil's first female president, will be stripped of her duties while she is tried in the upper house for allegedly manipulating government accounts. In a press conference following the announcement, Rousseff said her administration has been the target of "unending sabotage" by her opponents, describing the vote as a coup and calling on supporters to continue to fight for democracy.
"What's at stake is not just my mandate but respect for the streets, the victories of past 13 years, the future of the country," she said, according to a translation.
A final decision is expected to come in September or October and will require a two-thirds majority.
As the Guardian's Brazil correspondent Jonathan Watts writes, the trial "is more political than legal." Rousseff's opponents claim she borrowed money from state banks to cover up a deficit—however, as Watts explains, similar "fiscal irregularities" went unpunished in prior administrations, and the trial is more likely a "pretext to remove a leader who has struggled to assert her authority."
"Her judges will be senators, many of whom are accused of more serious crimes," Watts writes.
Vice President Michel Temer of the Brazilian Democratic Movement Party (PMDB), a center-right neoliberal lawmaker known for his Wall Street ties and back-door negotiation style, will take Rousseff's place in the interim.
As Brazil-based journalist Glenn Greenwald noted on Wednesday, that means the impeachment will "empower a person from a different party than that of the elected President."
In this particular case, the person to be installed is awash in corruption: accused by informants of involvement in an illegal ethanol-purchasing scheme, he was just found guilty of, and fined for, election spending violations and faces an 8-year-ban on running for any office. He’s deeply unpopular: only 2% would support him for President and almost 60% want him impeached (the same number that favors Dilma’s impeachment).
However, Temer "will faithfully serve the interests of Brazil's richest," Greenwald wrote, with plans to appoint officials from Goldman Sachs and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and a "totally unrepresentative, neoliberal team" to govern the country that is in the midst of a devastating recession.
As CNN's Latin America editor Catherine E. Shoichet explained this week, Temer is beloved by Wall Street and disliked by most Brazilians. In fact, a majority of the country believes Temer should be impeached as well. One Brazilian lawmaker, Rep. Weliton Prado of the Brazilian Woman Party (PMB), described him as "a vampire from these horror movies... It's like a virus, when immunity fails, the virus comes and contaminates the whole body."