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Brazil's Rousseff Suspended After Losing Impeachment Vote

Brazil's Rousseff Suspended After Losing Impeachment Vote

Thursday, 12 May 2016 06:19 AM

Brazil’s Senate voted to suspend President Dilma Rousseff from office to face an impeachment trial, ushering in a new government to take command of Latin America’s largest economy.

Legislators agreed on Thursday after a marathon session that lasted 21 hours to try the president on allegations she illegally doctored fiscal accounts to mask the size of the budget deficit. The vote was 55 to 22.

Rousseff, a one-time guerrilla fighter, now must step down and stand trial in the Senate, in a process that could by law last as long as 180 days and result in her permanent removal from office. Vice President Michel Temer, 75, will take over as interim president. Many expect the switch to be permanent.

"It’s difficult to see a situation where Rousseff would be able to come back," said Harold Trinkunas, director of the Latin America Initiative at the Brookings Institution in Washington.

The vote capped nearly six months of political uncertainty since then-lower house speaker Eduardo Cunha accepted the impeachment request. Rousseff’s chances of surviving declined rapidly in recent months as a corruption probe encroached on her inner circle and the worst recession in decades eroded many of the gains that Brazilians enjoyed during the 13 years of rule by her leftist Workers’ Party.

What led a majority of Brazilians to back impeachment was the sense that Rousseff both mismanaged the economy and was lenient on corruption. At its zenith, her party combined social welfare and market savvy to earn the envy of the developing world.

Work Fast

Temer’s aides said he will work fast to build support by putting in place an economic team that can revive confidence amid above-target inflation, double-digit unemployment and a near-record budget deficit. Trinkunas said the strategy will be to generate a sense of optimism that has long been absent in an increasingly polarized nation, where protests in the street and shouting matches in Congress have become the norm.

Investors are split over whether Temer, a career politician and constitutional lawyer, can unify Brazil and revive growth. While they welcome his plan to downsize government and to make more room for the private sector, some also fear political turmoil could persist and even intensify as critics challenge his legitimacy and try to block his proposals. 

Leading members of Temer’s Brazilian Democratic Movement Party are under investigation for the same allegations that plagued many of Rousseff’s allies, meaning the public could turn against his administration as well. Sixty-two percent of respondents in an Ibope poll last month said new elections rather than impeachment would have been the best solution to the political crisis. Backers of the Workers’ Party, which has strong ties to unions and protest movements, have already pledged to stage demonstrations and work stoppages to push for Temer’s ouster.

"Temer is going to face enormous polarization and a very angry and incredibly mobilized opposition," said Matthew Taylor, associate professor at American University’s School of International Service and former instructor at the University of Sao Paulo. "The Workers’ Party will make the current opposition look like a bunch of teddy bears."

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Brazil's Senate voted to suspend President Dilma Rousseff from office to face an impeachment trial, ushering in a new government to take command of Latin America's largest economy.
brazil, rousseff, impeachment, losing
Thursday, 12 May 2016 06:19 AM
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