Brazil’s Senate removed President Dilma Rousseff from office last night for breaking budgetary laws, ending an impeachment process that has polarised the scandal-plagued country and paralysed its politics for nine months.
Senators voted 61-20 to convict Rousseff for illegally using money from state banks to boost public spending, putting an end to 13 years of leftist Workers Party rule in Latin America’s largest economy.
Conservative Michel Temer, the former vice-president who has run Brazil since Rousseff’s suspension in May, was sworn in as the country’s new president.
Temer, 75, raised his hand and swore to uphold the constitution, drawing loud applause from his conservative supporters at the swearing-in ceremony in a packed Senate chamber.
Under Brazilian law, a dismissed president should be barred from holding any government job, including even teaching posts at state universities.
However, senators voted 42-36 to allow Rousseff to retain the right to hold public office, in an apparent sign of doubts over whether a budgetary sleight of hand that is common in Brazil was truly an impeachable offence.
Brazil’s first female president has denied any wrongdoing and said the impeachment process was a coup aimed at protecting the interests of the country’s economic elite and rolling back social programmes that lifted millions of Brazilians from poverty during the last decade.
A lawyer for Rousseff said she would appeal against her dismissal at the Supreme Court.
Her opponents, however, said her removal set the stage for Brazil to emerge from a drawnout political crisis.
They also hope it will help end the country’s worst recession in generations, even as the political class continues grappling with a sweeping corruption scandal at state oil company Petrobras.
Motorists sounded hooters in the Brazilian capital in a blaring tribute to the removal of a president whose popularity had dwindled to single figures since winning re-election in 2014.
In Brazil’s largest city, Sao Paulo, fireworks exploded in celebration after the vote.
Temer has vowed to boost an economy that has shrunk for six consecutive quarters and implement austerity measures to plug a record budget deficit, which cost Brazil its investment-grade credit rating last year.
Economists expect a return to growth before the end of the year.
But Temer is likely to face bitter political opposition from the Workers Party, which has vowed to take to the streets in protest against Rousseff’s removal.
There are also signs of resistance in Congress to Temer’s proposals to cap public spending and reform public pensions.
Market analysts said investors would now be looking to Temer to deliver on his promises of fiscal reforms.
His government also risks entanglement in an investigation of kickbacks at state oil company Petrobras PETR4.SA that has already ensnared dozens of politicians in Rousseff’s coalition.
In an emotional speech on Monday, Rousseff compared the trial to her persecution under Brazil’s 1964-85 military dictatorship, when she was tortured by security services as a member of a leftist urban guerrilla group.
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.
– Reuters, AFP