Brazil’s senate set to decide impeachment of president

Jenny Barchfield
Associated Press

Brasilia, Brazil – — Brazil’s senate on Wednesday neared a historic vote on impeaching President Dilma Rousseff, likely ending 13 years of government by her left-leaning party amid a spate of crises besetting Latin America’s largest nation.

If a simple majority of the 81 senators voted in favor, Rousseff would be suspended from office and Vice President Michel Temer would take over for up to six months pending a decision on whether to remove her from office permanently.

Senate President Renan Calheiros said he wanted the vote to take place Wednesday night and impeachment appeared to be foregone conclusion.

“I’m asking for everybody’s patience because we need to see this through to the end,” Calheiros said late in the day as the chamber entered its seventh hour of debate.

While the impeachment measure stemmed from allegations Brazil’s first female president broke fiscal laws, the process morphed into something of a referendum on Rousseff and her handling of the country over the past six years.

Brazil is mired in the worst economic downturn in decades and a sprawling corruption scandal centered on the state-run Petrobras oil company has soured the national mood, even as the country gears up to host South America’s first Olympic Games in August.

Supporters of impeachment blame Rousseff and her Workers’ Party for the stalled economy and insist that Vice President Michel Temer, whose party has split from the governing coalition, represents the only hope of reviving it.

Only a simple majority of 41 votes was needed to suspend Rousseff for up to six months pending a trial in the Senate, and major newspapers tallied at least 50 likely votes in favor of impeachment.