Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff vowed on Monday to fight impeachment tooth-and-nail in the Senate after a heavy defeat in the lower house of Congress raised the likelihood of an end to 13 years of leftist rule in Latin America’s largest economy.
In a raucous vote late on Sunday that sparked jubilation among Rousseff’s foes, the opposition comfortably surpassed the two-thirds majority needed to send Brazil’s first female president for trial in the Senate on charges she manipulated budget accounts.If the Senate votes by a simple majority to accept the case next month, as is expected, Rousseff would become the first Brazilian leader to be impeached for more than 20 years.
The crisis has paralysed the government as it struggles to revive the economy from its worst recession in decades. It has also sparked a bitter struggle between Rousseff, a 68-year-old former Communist guerrilla, and her Vice President Michel Temer, 75, who would take power if she is impeached.
Addressing the nation on television, a combative Rousseff insisted that she had committed no impeachable crime and accused Temer of openly conspiring to topple her government in what she described as a ‘coup’.
“While I am very saddened by this, I have the force, the spirit and the courage to fight this whole process to the end,” Rousseff told the televised news conference. “This is just the beginning of the battle, which will be long and drawn out.”
Rousseff stands accused of a budgetary sleight of hand employed by many elected officials in Brazil: delaying payments to state lenders in order to artificially lower the budget deficit to boost her re-election bid in 2014.