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    Monday, April 18, 2016

    Brazil's Lower House Votes For Dilma Rousseff's Impeachment

    Activists supporting Rousseff's impeachment take part in a protest Sunday in Sao Paulo.
    Brazilian lawmakers shouted, scuffled and even sang as they debated whether to impeach the country's President on Sunday.
    And after more than five hours of voting and fiery speeches, the results didn't fall in President Dilma Rousseff's favor.
    More than 342 lawmakers, the two-thirds majority required by law, have voted in favor of impeachment. More than 130 lawmakers have voted against it. Voting was ongoing late Sunday night.
    Rep. Bruno Araujo was triumphant as he cast the 342nd vote against Rousseff Sunday night.
    "It's an honor, what an honor that destiny has reserved for me. ... From my voice will come the scream of hope for millions of Brazilians," he said.
    The impeachment motion will next go to the country's Senate. If a majority approves it there, Rousseff will have to step down for 180 days to defend herself in an impeachment trial.

    If the motion is approved, Rousseff could be suspended as early as May. That would be about three months before the Summer Olympics kick off in Rio de Janeiro, an event that was supposed to showcase Brazil as a rising power on the global stage.
    Sunday's vote came after weeks of raucous debates inside Brazil's Congress and rival protests outside.

    Crowds pack area outside Congress as debate rages
    As lawmakers spoke their minds on the floor of Congress, throngs of demonstrators waited for word of the results. In Copacabana, Brazil, three big-screen TVs were set up for people to watch the proceedings.
    In Brasilia, police erected a 1-kilometer-long barricade on the lawn in front of Congress to separate anti-government protesters from Rousseff supporters.
    Advocates for impeachment dressed in yellow and green at protests across the country.
    Pro-government supporters wore red, the colors of Rousseff's Workers' Party.
    Chants, songs and fierce debate
    Lawmakers on both sides didn't mince words as they took their turns to speak Sunday. And at one point, there was a scuffle on the floor as tensions boiled over.
    Rep. Ronaldo Fonseca waved a copy of the country's Constitution in the air as he spoke, fiercely denying allegations that impeachment was akin to a coup for Rousseff.
    "Those who are outside, those who are in the streets, the Constitution guarantees this act. It's not a coup," he said. "You know what this looks like, this thing? This looks like verbal diarrhea that nobody can take anymore. Brazil wants a decision."
    Rep. Jose Guimaraes urged his colleagues to support Rousseff.

    "This is not good for democracy," he said. "They want to take the government away from an honest woman."
    Rep. Paulo Pereira da Silva sang a song, beginning, "Dilma, go away, because Brazil does not want you."
    It wasn't the only song of the night.
    After Araujo cast the deciding vote late Sunday night, lawmakers erupted in a popular soccer chant: "I'm Brazilian, with a lot of pride, a lot of love."
    Critics cite recession, scandals
    Lawmakers accuse Rousseff of hiding a budgetary deficit to win re-election in 2014.
    Opponents blame Rousseff for the worst recession in decades, now in its second year. They also hold her accountable for a massive bribery and corruption scandal that has engulfed dozens of politicians in the Workers' Party and coalition government.

    Although Rousseff has not been implicated in the scandal, for many years she was the chairwoman of Petrobras, the state-run oil company at the heart of the investigation.
    Her supporters argue the impeachment trial is a petty revenge orchestrated by politicians accused of much more serious crimes.
    Rousseff's exit would mark the end of an era for the Workers' Party, which assumed the presidential office in 2004 with the election of former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva

    During Lula da Silva's two terms, the left-leaning party was credited with lifting millions of Brazilians out of extreme poverty through increased social spending, largely financed by booming commodities exports to China.
    But under Rousseff, his handpicked successor, those exports dried up. The economy started to drop at the same time the corruption investigation revealed a history of bribes involving the country's biggest construction companies, Petrobras and dozens of politicians.
    Last month, Lula da Silva was taken in for questioning on suspicion he benefited from the scheme during his tenure and afterward.
    A few days later, Rousseff sought to appoint her former mentor as her chief of staff, which would have given him certain protections from prosecution. The move fueled nationwide protests.

    What happens next?
    The problem is that there is no quick fix going forward.
    If the impeachment trial goes to the Senate and is approved there, Rousseff would have to step down for 180 days to defend herself against accusations.

    She would be replaced by Vice President Michel Temer, whose party, the Brazilian Democratic Movement Party, or PMDB, has also been implicated in the corruption scheme and could be further weakened by the ongoing investigation.
    Rousseff's supporters have vowed to take to the streets in retaliation, ensuring a long battle ahead.
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