Brazil’s Rousseff Vows to Fight on After Impeachment Defeat
Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff vowed on Monday to fight impeachment tooth-and-nail in the Senate after a heavy defeat in the lower house of Congress raised the likelihood of an end to 13 years of Leftist rule in Latin America’s largest economy.
In a raucous vote late on Sunday that sparked jubilation among Rousseff’s foes, the opposition comfortably surpassed the two-thirds majority needed to send Brazil’s first female president for trial in the Senate on charges she manipulated budget accounts.
If the Senate votes by a simple majority to accept the case next month, as is expected, Rousseff would become the first Brazilian leader to be impeached for more than 20 years.
The crisis has paralysed the government as it struggles to revive the economy from its worst recession in decades. It has also sparked a bitter struggle between Rousseff, a 68-year-old former Communist guerrilla, and her Vice President Michel Temer, 75, who would take power if she is impeached.
Addressing the nation on television, a combative Rousseff insisted that she had committed no impeachable crime and accused Temer of openly conspiring to topple her government in what she described as a ‘coup’.
Rousseff stands accused of a budgetary sleight of hand, employed by many elected officials in Brazil: delaying payments to state lenders in order to artificially lower the budget deficit to boost her reelection bid in 2014.
Nevertheless, opinion polls show more than 60 percent of Brazilians support impeaching Rousseff, less than two years after the Leftist leader narrowly won reelection. Her popularity has been crushed by the recession and a vast graft scandal at state oil company Petrobras.
A Rousseff aide said the government would focus on clawing back support in the 81-seat Senate, where it lacks the simple majority needed to prevent the case being accepted for trial. Given that it currently has the support of only 31 senators, the aide said the situation looked “very difficult.”
The heavy margin of defeat in Sunday’s vote shocked many Workers Party insiders, who blamed treachery by allied parties. The final tally was 367 votes cast in favour of impeachment, versus 137 against, and seven abstentions. Two lawmakers did not show up to vote.