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Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff on the Verge of Impeachment

By: Daniel Duarte - @dduart3 - Apr 17, 2016, 11:43 pm
juicio político a Dilma Rousseff
Rousseff’s impeachment was requested by Eduardo Cunha, Speaker of the Lower Chamber, in 2015 (@DepEduardoCunha)

EspañolThe Lower Chamber of the Brazilian Congress approved an impeachment trial against President Dilma Rousseff on Sunday, April 17, as 367 representatives — more than the required two thirds majority — voted in favor of the proceedings. The ruling Workers’ Party (PT) only mustered 137 votes against the impeachment process, while 7 congressmen abstained and two were absent.

Rousseff’s political fate will now be decided in the Senate.

The president faces accusations of violating Brazil’s fiscal responsibility law and of approving credits without the approval of Congress. Her government is also under pressure due to a prolonged economic crisis and rampant corruption in Petrobras, the state-owned oil company.

Rousseff is only the second Brazilian president to face impeachment. In 1992, Congress tried to impeach Fernando Collor de Mello (1990-1992) for corruption, but he resigned before the end of the process.

A Tense Session

Sunday’s historic session began officially at 14:15 local time. Tensions were running high amid uncertainty regarding the vote’s final outcome. The ruling Workers’ Party had announced that it had strengthened its hand over the weekend.

The pro-impeachment movement needed at least 342 votes from a total of 513 in the lower house in order to approve the initial steps and to send the vote to the Senate.

Since at least 17 congressmen were absent at the beginning of the session according to broadcaster TV Globo, some speculated that Rousseff could win the day by defying her opponents.

Pushing and shoving ensued on the house floor after opposition Congressman Eduardo Cunha decided to force the absentees to vote.

Once order was restored, Congressman Jovair Arantes explained why he had approved the impeachment proceedings “with seriousness and dedication” as head of the special commission created to study the case against the president.

He was followed by the leaders of the 25 factions in favor of impeaching President Rousseff.

Pro-Rousseff congressmen claimed that the media and the opposition were carrying out a coup-d’état. They insisted there were no valid reasons to “topple” an elected president.

Voting began at 19:46 local time. At 23:06, the opposition had assured the 342 votes necessary to approve the impeachment process.

Meanwhile, large rallies in favor and against Roussef’s impeachment were held across the country.

Rousseff Still Has Hope of Remaining President

Today’s decision in the Lower House of Congress does not seal Rousseff’s political destiny. The Brazilian Senate will have the final call.

[adrotate group=”7″]If a simple majority of senators decides to impeach Rousseff, she will be removed from her post for an initial six months. In that case, Vice President Michel Temer of the Brazilian Democratic Movement Party (PMDM) would take charge of the executive power. Temer broke his alliance with Rousseff’s Workers’ party on March 29, declaring himself in favor of the impeachment process.

Rousseff, however, can only be removed permanently from the presidency after a second vote in the 81-seat Senate, where a two thirds majority is necessary to complete the impeachment process.

If Rousseff is declared guilty, she will be ineligible for public office for eight years. If she is absolved, she would return to the presidency.

Daniel Duarte Daniel Duarte

Daniel Duarte is an editor and translator with the PanAm Post. Based in Paraguay, he is currently finishing a bachelor's degree in philosophy, after moving back from France. Follow @dduart3.