Impeachment vote nears in Brazil amid angry scenes on the streets

Impeachment proceedings against Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff neared a decisive vote last night with pro- and anti-government legislators yelling and shoving inside Congress while thousands of demonstrators for and against the embattled leader rallied outside.

Deputies hold signs reading "Impeachment now" and "Bye darling" during a session in the lower house of the Brazilian Congress in Brasilia. Picture: Getty Images

Eduardo Cunha, the house speaker leading the drive to oust Rousseff, called “for silence” and respect.

The extraordinary session is the culmination of months of fighting, with friends and foes of Rousseff calling each other “putchists” and “thieves.

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Emotions have been running high since the impeachment proceedings began in the Chamber of Deputies on Friday, with lawmakers holding raucous, name-calling sessions that last more than 40 hours.

Outside the legislature, waves of pro- and anti-impeachment demonstrators were flooding into the capital of Brasilia. A metal wall more than a mile long was installed to keep the rival sides safely apart.

Patricia Santos, a retired 52-year-old schoolteacher outside Congress, said she was fed up with the status quo and wanted Rousseff out.

“We want our politicians to be less corrupt, so we hope impeaching her will send a signal to them all,” said Santos. “We know that all the parties are involved in the corruption but the Workers’ Party has been the leaders of this all for the last 13 years so they have to go.”

Thousands were demonstrating, both for and against the government, in other cities.

On Copacabana Beach in Rio de Janeiro, thousands of government supporters rallied as funk music blasted from a truck with large speakers.

Jader Alves, a 67-year-old retiree, promised that if Rousseff is impeached he’ll be back on the streets.

“My president was elected in 2014 and she will remain in office until 2018, no matter what,” said Alves.

If 342 of the lower house’s 513 lawmakers vote in favor of the impeachment, the proceedings move to the Senate, where a separate vote could suspend Rousseff and hand over the top job to Vice President Michel Temer, whom Rousseff has blasted in recent days as being part of the push against her.

Latin America’s largest nation is dealing with problems on many fronts. The economy is contracting, inflation is around 10 percent and an outbreak of the Zika virus, which can cause devastating birth defects, has ravaged parts of northeastern states.

Rio de Janeiro is gearing up to host the Olympics in August, but sharp budget cuts have fueled worries about whether the country will be ready.