Brazil’s suspended President Dilma Rousseff was impeached on Wednesday August 31 following a 61-20 vote by the country’s senate.
Senators broke into protest, cheers and applause after the electronic voting, which went on for hours, was announced. Pro-impeachment senators burst into a rendering of the national anthem, some waving Brazilian flags, while allies of Rousseff stood stony face.
“I will not associate my name to this infamy,” read a sign held up by one senator.
68-year-old Rousseff, the country’s first female president, will be removed from office and replaced by Vice President Michel Temer, 75. He will be sworn in on Wednesday to serve out her term which extends through 2018.
The impeachment comes two days after Rousseff staged an impassioned defense of her actions on Monday and insisted she was innocent of any wrongdoing in an lengthy speech before the senate. Lawmakers had charged that she breached fiscal rules in an attempt to cover up the nation’s budget woes.
“I know I will be judged, but my conscience is clear. I did not commit a crime,” Rousseff, told senators on Monday. “I can’t help but taste the bitterness of injustice.”
Rousseff described the impeachment process, which has been going on for about a year, amounted to an illegal coup. She said the move was aimed at protecting the interests of the country’s economic elite and rolling back social programs that lifted millions of Brazilians from poverty during the last decade.
Recalling how she was tortured and imprisoned in the 1970s for belonging to a leftist guerrilla group, Rousseff urged senators to “vote against impeachment, vote for democracy. Do not accept a coup.
Her opponents, however, have hailed the chance to turn the page on a drawn-out political crisis, the country’s worst recession and a sweeping corruption scandal at state oil company Petrobras.
About 50 leftist demonstrators gathered outside the presidential palace to show their support.
“We are protesting against the coup and fighting for democracy,” said 61-year-old farmer Orlando Ribeiro.
In the center of the capital, extra security and the closing of avenues near the Senate caused massive traffic jams. Police said they were preparing for large protests later in the day.
Lawyers presenting closing arguments could not hold back their emotions as the clock wound down on a crisis that has paralyzed Brazilian politics for months. A lead lawyer for the case against Rousseff, Senator Janaina Paschoal, wept as she asked forgiveness for causing the president “suffering,” but insisted it was the right thing to do.
“The Brazilian people must be aware that nothing illegal and illegitimate is being done here,” she said.
Rousseff’s counsel, veteran lawyer Jose Eduardo Cardozo, retorted that the charges were trumped up to punish the president’s support for a huge corruption investigation that has snared many of Brazil’s elite.
“This is a farce,” he said in a speech during which his voice alternated between shouts and near whispers. We should ask her forgiveness if she is convicted,” he added. “History will treat her fairly. History will absolve Dilma Rousseff if you convict her.”
Cardozo said shhe would appeal the impeachment through the Supreme Court. Rousseff is the first Brazilian leader to be dismissed from office since 1992, when Fernando Collor de Mello resigned before a final vote in his impeachment trial for corruption.