Brasila, May 12: Brazil’s Senate held a marathon debate today on suspending and impeaching President Dilma Rousseff, whose hours in office appeared to be numbered as the Supreme Court rejected her bid to halt the proceedings. Even Rousseff’s allies said she had no chance of surviving the Senate vote, which could end 13 years of leftist rule in Latin America’s biggest country.
Rousseff is accused of illegal accounting maneuvers, but says the charges are trumped up and amount to a “coup” by her right-wing opponents. A simple majority in the 81-member Senate will trigger Rousseff’s six-month suspension pending trial. A two-thirds majority would then be needed to remove her permanently. ALSO READ: Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff’s impeachment to go ahead:Speaker
Senate President Renan Calheiros, who was overseeing the proceedings, told reporters that impeachment would be “traumatic” for Brazil. But Rousseff’s chances of avoiding it all but evaporated as the high court denied her attorney general’s last-ditch attempt to stop the process. Rousseff had argued that the architect of the impeachment drive, lower house speaker Eduardo Cunha manipulated the process to avoid facing trial himself for allegedly taking millions in bribes in a huge corruption scandal centered on state oil company Petrobras.
Cunha was himself suspended by the Supreme Court last week for abuse of office. But Justice Teori Zavascki ruled the government’s case lacked “legal plausibility.” That cleared what looked to be the last potential barrier ahead of a vote that the Senate leader said he expected to hold tonight. He said Rousseff would be formally notified of her suspension on Thursday and he would discuss with her the details of how she would hand over power to her vice president-turned-enemy, Michel Temer.
Due to host the Olympic Games in less than three months, Brazil is struggling with its worst recession in decades and a corruption scandal reaching deep into the political and business elite. The political crisis has left the sprawling South American country deeply divided between those outraged at Rousseff for presiding over an economic collapse and colossal graft, on the one hand, and on the other those loyal to her Workers’ Party for transformative social programs that lifted tens of millions of people from poverty.