Brazil’s Rousseff faces final vote

Source:Reuters Published: 2016/9/1 0:03:39

Senate opponents make final arguments for her ouster

Votes piled up against President Dilma Rousseff at her impeachment trial on Tuesday as opponents made final arguments for her removal, not just for breaking budget rules, but for plunging Brazil into a political and economic crisis.

Rousseff, suspended from office in May pending the Senate trial, is charged with spending public funds without Congressional approval and illicitly using money from state banks to boost public works to favor her 2014 re-election, an accounting sleight of hand employed by many elected officials.

With a final vote expected to convict her on Wednesday, Rousseff's dismissal would confirm a shift to the right and the end of 13 years of leftist Workers Party rule that helped lift some 30 million Brazilians out of poverty.

Several senators who had not previously declared their votes, including two from the northern state of Maranhao, shifted decisively against Rousseff on Tuesday, according to four sources familiar with their deliberations.

In testimony to the Senate on Monday, the 68-year-old leader denied any wrongdoing and said the impeachment process was aimed at protecting the interests of the economic elite in Latin America's largest country.

However, lawyer Janaina Paschoal, the author of the impeachment request against Rousseff, told Senators in her closing arguments that the trial should focus on the corruption and economic turmoil under Rousseff's government.

"The world needs to know that we are not just voting about accounting issues," Paschoal said, arguing along with most senators that Rousseff's alleged budget crimes had contributed to a sharp downturn in Latin America's largest economy.

If Rousseff is convicted, her conservative former vice president, Michel Temer, will lead the nation until the next presidential elections in 2018.

Temer, 75, has vowed to pull the economy out of its worst recession since the 1930s and implement austerity measures to plug a growing budget deficit that cost Brazil its investment-grade credit rating last year.

His main challenges, if confirmed as president, would include pushing an unpopular spending cap through Congress and balancing overdrawn government accounts without resorting to tax increases.

His government could also risk being caught up in an investigation over kickbacks at state oil company Petrobras that has ensnared dozens of politicians in the coalition that backed Rousseff.

The scandal, which has also tarnished Temer's PMDB party, could hobble his efforts to restore economic confidence and political stability. While senators disagreed on the merits of the accounting charges, most who took the podium held her responsible for Brazil's crisis.

Posted in: Americas

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