Brazilian senators engaged in marathon debate on the eve of voting on whether to strip Dilma Rousseff of the presidency and end 13 years of leftist rule in Latin America’s biggest country.
Lawyers on both sides of the impeachment trial dividing Brazil made impassioned closing arguments, followed by final speeches from senators.
The vote on Rousseff’s fate, originally set for yesterday, was put off to today.
Brazil’s first woman president, 68, 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.
Latest estimates from independent analysts and pro-impeachment senators are that the upper chamber will easily reach the two-thirds majority — 54 out of 81 senators — to convict Rousseff. Loyalists say they haven’t yet lost hope of saving the Workers’ Party president.
“The chances of impeachment not passing and the president being made to step down are virtually nill,” said political analyst Adriano Codato at Parana University.
If Rousseff is forced from office, her former vice president turned bitter foe Michel Temer will be immediately sworn in as president until the next scheduled elections in late 2018.
Temer, 75, took over in an interim role after Rousseff’s initial suspension in May and at once named a new government with an agenda shifting Brazil to the right.
Rousseff, in a 14-hour appearance on Monday, defiantly challenged senators to acquit her, branding impeachment as a “coup.”
Lawyers presenting closing arguments yesterday could not hold back their emotions as the clock wound down on a crisis that has paralysed Brazilian politics for months and helped deepen national gloom over recession and runaway corruption.
A lead lawyer for the case against Rousseff, Janaina Paschoal, wept as she asked forgiveness for causing the president “suffering,” but insisted it was the right thing to do.
“Impeachment is a constitutional remedy that we need to resort to when the situation gets particularly serious, and that is what has happened,” Paschoal said, rejecting Rousseff’s “coup” claim.
“The Brazilian people must be aware that nothing illegal and illegitimate is being done here.”