BRASILIA – Suspended Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff is two steps away from being permanently removed from office after a Senate impeachment committee approved a report recommending she be convicted in the upper house on charges of violating budget laws.
In a 14-5 vote Thursday, the panel of senators approved a report by Sen. Antonio Anastasia that accused Rousseff of “attacking the constitution” by manipulating budget figures to minimize the size of the deficit.
A majority of 41 senators must now approve that same report in a vote on Tuesday to trigger an impeachment trial in the upper house that would likely begin late this month and last between three and five days.
Rousseff was suspended from office and replaced by her then-vice president, Michel Temer, on May 12 for allegedly taking out loans from state-controlled banks to finance public spending, which is illegal under Brazilian law, and moving budget funds around without congressional authorization.
The suspended president, whose center-left Workers’ Party, or PT, had been in power since 2003, says Temer of the Brazilian Democratic Movement Party, or PMDB, which distanced itself from her and enabled the impeachment process to proceed, has orchestrated a “coup.”
Rousseff in recent days has not been seen in public nor met with her PT colleagues, who were reportedly irked by her comments suggesting the party should publicly acknowledge mistakes.
She was alluding to recent corruption scandals, including a massive bribes-for-inflated-contracts scheme centered on state oil company Petrobras, that have ensnared senior PT leaders.
In an apparent sign of her strained relationship with the party, Rousseff’s situation was not on the agenda at a high-level PT meeting Thursday in Sao Paulo.
Brazilian social movements continue to support Rousseff, though in smaller numbers, and have called protests for Friday in Rio de Janeiro to coincide with the Olympics opening ceremony that Temer will oversee.
The suspended president alluded to those planned protests in a video released Thursday, saying it was important for Brazilians to take to the streets and that “all of us together can turn this game around,” a reference to the impeachment process.
A vote – possibly on Sept. 2 – to permanently remove Rousseff from the presidency would require the support of two-thirds of the Senate, or 54 upper-house lawmakers.
If that happens, Temer would serve out the remainder of her term through the end of 2018.