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Brazilians 'Brokenhearted' As President Dilma Rousseff Suspended, Senate Pushes For Impeachment

( [email protected] ) May 12, 2016 01:40 PM EDT
Brazil's Senate voted Thursday to impeach President Dilma Rousseff, the country's first female leader, after a months-long political battle.
Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff reacts during a launch ceremony of Agricultural and Livestock Plan for 2016/2017, at the Planalto Palace in Brasilia, Brazil May 4, 2016. REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino/File Photo TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY

Brazil's Senate voted Thursday to impeach President Dilma Rousseff, the country's first female leader, after a months-long political battle.

According to Reuters, after a marathon 20-hour debate senators voted 55 to 22 to suspend the Workers' party leader over charges brought in December that she illegally disguised the size of the budget deficit to make the economy look healthier ahead of her 2014 re-election.

Rousseff, 68, will now be forced to give up her duties while she undergoes an impeachment trial, with Vice President Michel Temer becoming the interim president. If Rousseff is found guilty, Temer will take over the rest of her term. A final decision, which is likely in September or October, will require a two-thirds majority.

In an emotional address given on Thursday, Rousseff said that she may have made mistakes but had committed no crimes, adding: "I did not violate budgetary laws."

"What is at stake is respect for the ballot box, the sovereign will of the Brazilian people and the constitution," she said, the BBC reports. "This is a tragic hour for our country."

She referred to the impeachment "fraudulent" and "a coup," and said, "I never imagined that it would be necessary to fight once again against a coup in this country," in a reference to her youth fighting Brazil's military dictatorship.

"It's the most brutal of things that can happen to a human being to be condemned for a crime you didn't commit. There is no more devastating injustice," she added.

The Christian Science Monitor reports that in the past, Rousseff, who identifies as a Roman Catholic and actively opposes abortion, has also suggested that sexism in the male-dominated Congress played a role in the impeachment, as she once stated that  "there are attitudes toward me that wouldn't exist toward a male president."

Rousseff, who came to power in 2010, is the second president impeached since Brazil's 1985 return to democracy, causing growing political uncertainty in a country that also faces a severe economic contraction, according to BBC.

An impeachment trial can last as long as six months, which means Rousseff would be suspended during the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, which start on  August 5th.

Polls have said a majority of Brazilians (60%) supported impeaching Rousseff. However, The Guardian notes that many are "uncomfortable about how she is being pushed aside," as even opponents acknowledge the president is one of the least corrupt politicians in the country.

"All the people here are broken-hearted. We don't want this, but it is unavoidable. Brazil has come to a stop since last year," Marcelo Crivella, who, as well as being a senator for the Brazilian Republican party, is a gospel singer and a bishop of the evangelical Universal Church of the Kingdom of God, told the news outlet. "We all recognize that [Dilma] has done a good job during her life for the democracy of Brazil."

The CSM reports that while the trial is conducted, Rousseff will remain in Alvorada Palace, the presidential residence, where she will have security guards, health care, and the right to air and ground travel, as well as staff for her personal office and a salary.