Brazil’s Senate has ousted President Dilma Rousseff, ending an impeachment process that polarized Latin America’s biggest country amid a massive corruption scandal and brutal economic crisis.
Senators voted 61-20 to convict the country’s first female president for illegally using money from state banks to bankroll public spending, marking the end of 13 years of leftist Workers Party rule, Reuters reports.
Rousseff’s opponents hailed the removal of the former leftist guerrilla as paving the way for a change of fortunes for Brazil.
But her conservative successor, Michel Temer, the former vice president who has run Brazil since her suspension in May, inherits a bitterly divided nation with voters in no mood for the austerity measures needed to heal public finances.
Until just a few years ago, Brazil was booming economically and its status was rising on the global stage.
The economy then slid into its deepest recession in decades, and a graft scandal at state oil company Petrobras tarnished Rousseff’s coalition.
Millions took to the streets this year to demand her removal, less than two years after she was re-elected.
A string of corruption scandals, led by the Petrobras scheme, has engulfed vast swaths of Brazil’s political class and business elites over the past 2-1/2 years.
Temer, who was sworn in by Congress to serve the remainder of the presidential term through 2018, is likely to face tough opposition from the Workers Party both on the streets and in Congress to his agenda of privatizations and reforms to Brazil’s generous pension and welfare laws.
Standing outside the presidential residence flanked by supporters, Rousseff insisted on her innocence and said her removal was a “parliamentary coup” backed by the economic elite that would roll back social programs that lifted millions of Brazilians out of poverty over the last decade.
“They think they have beaten us but they are mistaken,” Rousseff said, adding that she would appeal the decision using every legal means.
“At this time, I will not say goodbye to you. I am certain I can say ‘See you soon’.”
The end of the Workers Party’s long grip on power sparked angry reactions from leftist governments across the region.
Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador announced they would recall their ambassadors, while Cuba’s Communist government branded Rousseff’s ouster part of an “imperialist” offensive against progressive governments in Latin America.
The US State Department voiced confidence that strong bilateral relations with Brazil would continue, adding the country’s democratic institutions had acted within the constitutional framework.
In an unexpected move, Brazil’s Senate voted 42-36 to allow Rousseff to retain the right to hold public office – in a break with Brazil law that specifies a dismissed president should be barred from holding any government job for eight years.
Rousseff became the first Brazilian leader dismissed from office since 1992, when Fernando Collor de Mello resigned before a final vote in his impeachment trial for corruption.
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