Brazil’s Senate Votes to Begin Impeachment Trial of President Rousseff


[8/11/16]  In the early hours of Wednesday morning, Brazil’s upper house, following 16 hours of speeches and rancorous debate, voted 59-21 to begin the impeachment trial of the country’s president, Dilma Rousseff (shown). The senate has 48 hours to prepare the impeachment papers, Rousseff has another 48 hours to prepare her defense, and then the actual date for the trial will be set, likely the week after the Rio 2016 Olympics have ended.

For all intents and purposes, however, the trial is already over. It will take just two-thirds of the senate to convict her, four fewer votes than were recorded on Wednesday. Unless something untoward occurs, she’ll be out of office, and be forced to move from the presidential palace, before the end of the month.

She has claimed innocence from the beginning. Accused of cooking the federal books in 2014 to help her reelection campaign, Rousseff has said she did nothing illegal and, besides, even if it was illegal, her predecessors did the same thing so she should be excused of wrongdoing. She has claimed further that the attempt to remove her from office, which began earlier this year, amounted to a coup — a heavily laden pejorative in Brazil and elsewhere in South America — and an attempt to distract attention away from Operation Car Wash (the investigation into the scandal involving government officials and top people at Petrobras, the state-owned oil company) that implicated 60 percent of the senate.

Reed Johnson, an observer of the events unfolding in Brasilia, the country’s capital, wrote in the Wall Street Journal that the whole affair is nothing more than a temper tantrum: “To her critics and allies alike … the descent of Brazil’s president was less about alleged accounting sleight-of-hand and far more about a comatose economy, a colossal political scandal, partisan payback from her congressional adversaries, and an electorate that feels betrayed by the president and disgusted with Brazil’s ruling elites.”

That “colossal political scandal” — the investigation was dubbed “Operation Car Wash” for the location where much of the bribes were laundered — has surrounded but never directly touched Rousseff, even though she served as head of Petrobras during the previous administration headed up by Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (“Lula”). The investigation, now more than two years old, has put politicians and Petrobras officials behind bars, including some of the country’s top industrialists. And it continues to threaten those still under investigation.

When Rousseff was replaced temporarily…CONTINUE READING

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