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Brazil’s Senate votes to strip Dilma Rousseff of presidency

Andressa Anholete, AFP | Dilma Rousseff addresses a Workers' Party rally in Brasilia on August 24, 2016, days before the Senate voted to impeach her.

Brazil's Dilma Rousseff was stripped of the country's presidency Wednesday in a Senate impeachment vote ending 13 years of leftist rule in Latin America's biggest economy.


Rousseff, 68, was convicted by 61 of the 81 senators of illegally manipulating the national budget. The vote, passing the needed two-thirds majority, meant she was immediately removed from office.

Cheers -- and cries of disappointment -- erupted in the blue-carpeted, circular Senate chamber as the verdict flashed up on the electronic voting screen.

Pro-impeachment senators burst into a rendering of the national anthem, some waving Brazilian flags, while allies of Rousseff stood stony faced.

"I will not associate my name to this infamy," read a sign held up by one senator.

The Senate, however, decided that Rousseff would not be barred from holding public office with senators voting 42-36 to allow the impeached president to maintain her political rights.

Brazil's first female president, proclaimed her innocence yet again and blasted the opposition for pushing through what she has repeatedly called a bloodless coup.

"Today is the day that 61 men, many of them charged and corrupt, threw 54 million Brazilian votes in the garbage," Rousseff tweeted minutes after the decision.

Rousseff won more than 54 million votes in her 2014 re-election bid.

Her lawyer and former attorney general Jose Eduardo Cardozo said the former president planned to appeal her impeachment.

Temer sworn in as new president

Hours after the vote, Rousseff’s vice president turned bitter political enemy, Michel Temer, was sworn in as her replacement.

Before a packed Senate chamber, Temer raised his arm and swore to uphold the constitution, drawing loud applause from his conservative supporters.

Temer, 75, was to mark his first day as president by flying late Wednesday to China for a G20 summit.

Better known as a backroom wheeler-dealer than street politician, Temer took over in an interim role after Rousseff's initial suspension in May.

He immediately named a new government that turned its back on more than a decade of leftist rule in which Brazil saw 29 million people lifted from poverty, but became bogged down in corruption and the ongoing economic slump.

Venezuela, Ecuador summon ambassadors from Brazil

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.

Venezuela and Ecuador both pulled their ambassadors from Brazil in protest at Rousseff's removal.

In the centre 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.

Anti-Rousseff anger

Rousseff, from the leftist Workers' Party, is accused of taking illegal state loans to patch budget holes in 2014, masking the country's problems as it slid into its deepest recession in decades.

She told the Senate during a marathon 14-hour session on Monday that she is innocent and that abuse of the impeachment process put Brazil's democracy, restored in 1985 after a two-decades-long military dictatorship, at risk.

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."

However, huge anti-Rousseff street demonstrations over the last year have reflected nationwide anger at her management of a country suffering double-digit unemployment and inflation.

The once mighty Workers' Party, meanwhile, has struggled to stage more than small rallies.

Emotions spill over

Lawyers presenting closing arguments on Tuesday could not hold back their emotions as the clock wound down on a crisis that has paralysed Brazilian politics for months, helping deepen national gloom over recession and runaway corruption.

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."

(FRANCE 24 with AFP and AP)

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