Brazil’s senate has voted to impeach president Dilma Rousseff after a months-long fight that laid bare the country’s fury over corruption and economic decay, hurling the country into political turmoil just months before it hosts the Summer Olympics.
Ms Rousseff’s enraged backers called the move a coup d’etat and threatened widescale protests and strikes. Her foes, meanwhile, insisted that she had broken the law, and that the country’s deep political, social and economic woes could only be tackled without her.
The 55-22 vote means that Ms Rousseff’s ally-turned-enemy, vice-president Michel Temer, will take over as acting president while she is suspended. The senate now has 180 days to conduct a trial and decide whether Ms Rousseff should be permanently removed from office.
“Did anyone think we would get to 2018 with a recovery under this government? Impossible,” said Jose Serra, the opposition Social Democratic Party’s failed presidential candidate in the 2010 race that brought Ms Rousseff to power. “The impeachment is just the start of the reconstruction.”
Ms Rousseff, 68, was impeached for allegedly using illegal accounting tricks that critics said were meant to hide ballooning deficits and bolster an embattled government. Brazil’s first female president, who was tortured under the country’s dictatorship, has frequently blasted the impeachment push as modern-day coup, arguing she had not been charged with a crime and previous presidents did similar things.
She has also suggested that sexism in the male-dominated Congress played a role in the impeachment.
Ms Rousseff’s suspension and likely permanent removal ends 13 years of rule by the left-leaning Workers’ Party, which is credited with lifting millions out of abject poverty but vilified for being at the wheel when billions were siphoned from the state oil company Petrobras.
Mr Temer, 75, a career politician, has promised to cut spending and privatise many sectors controlled by the state.
Meanwhile the International Olympic Committee says it is looking forward to working with the new Brazilian government ahead of the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
IOC president Thomas Bach said “there is strong support for the Olympic Games in Brazil and we look forward to working with the new government to deliver successful Games in Rio this summer”.
Mr Bach said preparations for the games “have now entered into a very operational phase and issues such as these have much less influence than at other stages of organizing the Olympic Games.”
He added: “We have seen the great progress being made in Rio de Janeiro and we remain confident about the success of the Olympic Games in August.”