Brazil impeachment drive accelerates to Senate

April 18, 2016 11:34 pm
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A man dressed as Batman holds a sign reading "Bye Darling" during a protest in favor of the impeachment of Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff in Copacabana, Rio de Janeiro, on April 17, 2016/AFP
A man dressed as Batman holds a sign reading “Bye Darling” during a protest in favor of the impeachment of Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff in Copacabana, Rio de Janeiro, on April 17, 2016/AFP

, BRASÍLIA, Brazil, Apr 18 – The fight to oust Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff speeded up on Monday after lawmakers authorized impeachment proceedings against her, deepening the country’s political crisis.

Opponents of the 68-year-old leftist leader said they would quickly go to the Senate to formally hand over the impeachment case, following Sunday’s overwhelming approval in the lower house.

The Senate is expected to vote in May on whether to open a trial, at which point Rousseff would have to step aside, with her vice president taking over. A two thirds majority in the Senate would then force her from office.

Overview
  • If, as many expect, the Senate goes on to start a trial, Vice President Michel Temer, who abandoned Rousseff to become a key opponent, will assume power. He would also stay on if the trial ended in impeachment.
  • Monday's newspapers printed pictures of him smiling as he watched the vote.
  • But the celebrations could be short lived, analysts say.
  • Temer would inherit a country wallowing in economic disarray and a dysfunctional political scene where Rousseff's Workers' Party vows revenge.

“Impeachment!” was the celebratory front-page headline of Folha de Sao Paulo daily on Monday.

“Close to the end,” said another leading newspaper, O Globo, adding: “Dilma Rousseff yesterday started to say goodbye to the presidency of Brazil.”

The marathon vote on Sunday saw 367 of the 513 deputies in the lower house of Congress back impeachment, well over the two thirds majority needed to move the case forward.

Cheering and confetti burst from opposition ranks when the vote passed, countered by jeering from Rousseff allies – a snapshot of the divisive mood consuming the country just four months before Rio de Janeiro hosts the Olympics.

Rousseff is accused of illegally manipulating budget figures. But Rousseff’s attorney general, Jose Eduardo Cardozo said the charges were flimsy and amounted to “a coup against democracy.”

Rousseff was to give her first public reaction on Monday, he said.

Carla Selman, an analyst at IHS Country Risk, a consultancy, said that events could move quickly given the decisive nature of the lower house vote.

“This is likely to accelerate a vote in the Senate, where the pro-impeachment camp is also expected to win,” Selman said.

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