4 Min Read
BRASILIA (Reuters) - Brazil's Senate voted overwhelmingly on Wednesday to indict President Dilma Rousseff on charges of breaking budget laws and to begin an impeachment trial that is expected to oust her from office and end 13 years of rule by the Workers Party.
With the eyes of the world on the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, senators in the capital Brasilia voted 59-21 against the suspended leftist leader in a raucous, 16-hour session that began on Tuesday.
Her opponents mustered five votes more than they will need to convict Rousseff at the end of the month, allowing interim President Michel Temer to serve the rest of her term through 2018.
The result showed Rousseff had even less support in the Senate since the 55-22 vote to suspend her on May 12. She is charged with manipulating government accounts and spending without congressional approval, which her opponents say helped her win re-election in 2014.
Wednesday's vote will strengthen Temer's hand as he tries to plug Brazil's fiscal crisis. Critics have blamed Rousseff for an economic recession that could be the country's worst since the 1930s.
Temer, Rousseff's conservative former vice president, has urged senators to wrap up the trial quickly so he can move ahead with a plan to cap public spending and enact pension reforms in hopes of restoring investor confidence in government finances.
Spokesman Marcio de Freitas said Temer is confident Rousseff's impeachment is irreversible and Wednesday's vote will give him more muscle to negotiate with Congress the reforms he believes are needed.
Temer also hopes to be confirmed as president in time to attend the summit of the G20 group of leading world economies in China on Sept. 4, Freitas told Reuters.
The move to replace Rousseff with the more business-friendly Temer has bolstered Brazil's currency against the dollar and boosted shares on the Sao Paulo stock market more than 30 percent since January, placing them among the world's best performing assets.
The real strengthened to 3.13 reais to the dollar on Wednesday. It had weakened as low as 4.16 in January.
Rousseff has denied wrongdoing and denounced her impeachment as a right-wing conspiracy that used an accounting technicality to illegally remove a government that improved the lot of Brazil's poor.
"The cards are marked in this game. There is no trial, just a sentence that has already been written," Workers Party Senator Jorge Viana said in a speech to the chamber. The impeachment, he said, was driven by elite opponents of social welfare gains.
Rousseff's critics say her interventionist economic policies and inability to govern led to the debacle in Latin America's largest country, and she should not be allowed to return.
Her supporters argue that she is being ousted by politicians who are in many cases being investigated for receiving kickbacks in the graft scandal at state-led oil company Petrobras.
Corruption allegations forced the resignation of three of Temer's cabinet members. In plea bargaining testimony published by local media over the weekend, jailed construction magnate Marcelo Odebrecht reportedly claimed Temer had received illegal campaign funding.
The advance of the anti-Rousseff votes in the Senate would indicate that the corruption allegations have not hurt Temer's standing as the man to lead Brazil out of its present turmoil.
Additional reporting by Carolina Marcello, Lisandra Laraguassú and Bruno Federowski; Editing by Louise Ireland and David Gregorio