Brazil's Senate removes President Rousseff from office

Brazil’s Senate removes President Rousseff from office


Rio — After an emotionally charged, late-night debate, the Brazilian Senate voted Wednesday to remove suspended President Dilma Rousseff from office for fiscal irregularities, a move she said amounted to an illegal coup.
The 61-20 vote capped a year-long power struggle between Rousseff’s long-governing leftist government and opposition senators and comes less than two weeks after the Rio Olympics, which highlighted Brazil but also put the country’s economic and political woes on international display.The Senate suspended Rousseff in May on charges that she used illegal budgetary maneuvers to hide the extent of the country’s financial problems. Brazil’s once-booming economy slumped into a deep recession after a global slowdown sent prices plummeting for commodities it exports to the world.
A raucous and emotional impeachment hearing started last Thursday. Rousseff spoke Monday to defend herself and underwent harsh questioning from the senators for nearly 14 hours.
Opponents of the 68-year-old Rousseff, a former guerrilla fighter, charged that she broke the law in manipulating the government budget to preserve popular social programs that bolstered her re-election in 2014.
She denied doing anything illegal, saying previous presidents routinely made similar fund transfers. “I did not commit the crimes that I am arbitrarily and unjustly accused of,” she said Monday, adding that “we are one step away from a real coup d’etat.”
She argued that she was forced to make tough choices on the budget in the face of falling revenues and a refusal by opponents in Congress to work with her. “I know I will be judged, but my conscience is clear. I did not commit a crime,” Rousseff told senators in a 30-minute address.
On Tuesday, Janaina Paschoal, the lawyer leading the case against Rousseff, said she had committed fraud when breaking fiscal laws.
In calling for her dismissal, Miguel Reale Junior, a former minister of justice who prosecuted the case, said removal of the president “will mark the beginning of a new era” for Brazil.
Most of the senators making statements blamed her for Brazil’s recession, saying she ignored signs of a slowdown.
“The most perverse consequence of the actions of the president is that 12 million are unemployed, 5 million since she was re-elected,” said Sen. Aecio Neves, who narrowly lost the presidential election to Rousseff in 2014.
Rousseff had sharp words for her apparent successor, Temer, who is more conservative and represents a different party. She called him a “usurper” who — when he became interim president in May — named a Cabinet of all white men in a country that is more than 50% non-white. Temer’s Cabinet has been roundly criticized for its lack of diversity, and three ministers were forced to step down within a month of taking office because of corruption allegations.
Rousseff asserted that impeachment was the price she paid for refusing to quash a wide-ranging government investigation into a political bribery scandal involving the state oil company, Petrobras. She said corrupt lawmakers linked to the scheme conspired to oust her to derail the investigation into billions in kickbacks at the oil giant.
Rousseff said it was “an irony of history” that she was being judged for crimes she did not commit by people accused of serious crimes.
Tens of thousands of supporters demonstrated on Rousseff’s behalf when she was first suspended, but the size of the crowds have been small in the past week, perhaps because her backers realize her ouster was assured.
Rousseff faced a long and difficult road to the top of Brazil’s government. In the 1960s, she joined socialist guerrilla groups that attempted to overthrow Brazil’s military dictatorship, but was captured, tortured and spent more than two years in prison.
She later returned to school and earned an economics degree. She made her way into politics and rose through local and state offices until she was picked by popular President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva to serve as his minister of energy. She later became his chief of staff and his handpicked successor for the 2010 presidential election.
With the Brazilian economy booming at the time, Rousseff coasted to victory. But the economy has been deteriorating ever since her narrow re-election.
Her mentor Lula, as he is widely known, also has been implicated in the bribery scandal.
Gomez reported from Miami Contributing: Doug Stanglin in McLean, Va. – USA Today via MSN news


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