President Dilma Rousseff was removed from office today following a 55-22 vote by the Senate to try her for alleged corruption.
Rousseff’s suspension (afastamento) was expected for months as the Brazilian Congress and Supreme Court went through a protracted process of legal maneuvers before the climactic vote in today’s early hours.
In her live news conference just moments ago, Rousseff proclaimed her innocence and described the Senate’s vote as a coup (golpe). She repeated the fact that she was chosen by 54 million Brazilians in an open, fair and democratic election. But now the nation will be ruled by a government that was not chosen in a direct vote by the nation.
Dilma Rousseff was the handpicked successor to President Lula da Silva and his Workers Party (PT). She said she was proud not only to be the first elected female president of Brazil but also of the advances made by Brazil’s poor and middle class during her administration.
Vice President Michel Temer, who also faces allegations of corruption, now assumes office and will govern either until Rousseff returns to the presidency after a Senate trial if she is acquitted or until her original term ends in 2018.
Rousseff, an ex-Marxist, reminded reporters and supporters that she was imprisoned and tortured during Brazil’s 21-year military dictatorship that ended in 1985. And she said she was tortured again as a victim of today’s coup against the people of Brazil.
But she vowed to use every legal tool to return to office and to fight what she described as the illegitimate actions of her opponents.
That prospect seems unlikely, however, based on today’s 55-votes from the 81-member Senate in favor of a trial–more than the two-thirds necessary for impeachment (conviction) and permanent removal.
Brazil faces numerous political, social and economic crises and it will be interesting to see how the new government will respond.