Lawmakers in Brazil
’s lower house of congress have approved a motion to open an impeachment trial of President Dilma Rousseff over corruption charges, claims she strongly denies.
The opposition got the 342 votes — or two-thirds of the 513 votes in the chamber — needed to secure enough support for the motion on Sunday. The proceedings will now be sent to the senate for a vote expected in May.
If the senate approves the motion too, President Rousseff will have to leave office for 180 days as the impeachment trial proceeds. In such a case, her vice-president-turned-opponent, Michel Temer, would take over.
Following the lawmakers’ vote for impeachment, Brazil’s presidential chief of staff Jaques Wagner said the administration is confident the senate would dismiss the impeachment motion, describing the vote as a setback for Brazilian democracy.
During the congress session, a large number of security forces were stationed in the capital, Brasilia, where tens of thousands of pro- and anti-impeachment demonstrators had hit the streets.
“I am happy, happy, happy. I spent a year demonstrating in hope that Dilma would be brought down,” said Maristela de Melo, 63, an anti-Rousseff demonstrator.
A two-meter-high wall stretching for more than one kilometer (0.6 mile) was built outside the congress to keep the opposing camps apart.
The supporters of the impeachment of Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff celebrate in the capital, Brasilia, after lawmakers reached the votes needed to authorize her impeachment to go ahead, April 17, 2016. (Photo by AFP)
Recent polls show that over 60 percent of Brazil’s 200 million people back impeaching Rousseff.
Her government stands accused of violating fiscal rules to promote her 2014 re-election campaign.
The president is also under fire over a graft scandal at the state oil company Petrobras, where she was the manager before taking office as president in 2010.
Recently, she further angered the opposition by giving her predecessor and ally Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who is himself implicated in the corruption case, a top position in the cabinet. Opponents say the move is aimed at granting him immunity from prosecution.
However, Rousseff has denied the allegations against her as politically-motivated, accusing the opposition of orchestrating a coup.