Rousseff judgment vote pending

Brazilian president likely to be convicted as impeachment trial ends today

Marathon final debates started yesterday on the eve of the judgment vote in the impeachment trial of Brazil’s suspended leftist president Dilma Rousseff, who appears likely to be stripped of office.

Lawyers on both sides of the political divide in Latin America’s biggest country made impassioned closing arguments, followed by the start of final speeches from senators that were set to stretch into the early hours of this morning.

Supreme Court Chief Justice Ricardo Lewandowski told the senate that the vote on Rousseff’s fate, originally set for yesterday, would be put off to today.

Brazil’s first woman president, 68, is accused of taking illegal state loans to patch budget holes in 2014, masking the country’s problems as it slid into its deepest recession in decades.

Latest estimates from independent analysts and pro-impeachment senators are that the upper chamber will easily reach the two-thirds majority -- 54 out of 81 senators -- to convict Rousseff. Loyalists say they have not yet lost hope of saving the Workers’ Party president and extending 13 years of leftist rule.

If Rousseff is forced from office, former vice-president turned bitter foe Michel Temer will be sworn in immediately as president until the next elections in late 2018.

Temer took over in an interim role after Rousseff’s suspension in May and at once named a new government with an agenda to shift Brazil to the right.

Rousseff, in a 14-hour appearance on Monday, defiantly challenged senators to acquit her, saying that the impeachment case amounted to a coup d’etat.

Lawyers presenting closing arguments yesterday could not hold back their emotions as the clock wound down on a crisis that has paralysed Brazilian politics for months and helped deepen the national gloom over recession and runaway corruption.

A lead lawyer making the case against Rousseff, Janaina Paschoal, wept as she asked forgiveness for causing her “suffering,” but insisted it was the right thing to do.

“Impeachment is a constitutional remedy that we need to resort to when the situation gets particularly serious, and that is what has happened,” Paschoal said.

Rousseff’s lawyer, Jose Eduardo Cardozo, retorted that Rousseff was being made to pay for supporting corruption investigations against rivals.

“This is a farce,” he said in an impassioned speech.