Brasília (AFP) – Brazilian lawmakers authorized impeachment proceedings against President Dilma Rousseff in a rowdy, circus-like showdown that plunged Latin America’s biggest country into profound political crisis and sparked claims that democracy was under threat.
Opposition deputies in the lower house of Congress needed 342 of the 513 votes, or a two thirds majority, to send Rousseff to the Senate, which will now decide whether to open a trial. They got there near midnight on Sunday after five hours of voting.
Wild cheering and a burst of confetti erupted from opposition ranks at the 342nd vote, countered by furious jeering from Rousseff allies in a snapshot of the radical and bitter mood consuming Brazil just four months before Rio de Janeiro hosts the Olympics.
Presidential chief of staff Jacques Wagner accused deputies of voting for impeachment without proving that Rousseff, who is accused of illegally manipulating budget figures, had committed a serious crime.
“In this way, the Chamber of Deputies is threatening to interrupt 30 years of democracy in the country,” he said, referring to the end of a military dictatorship in 1985.
“It was a coup against democracy,” Rousseff’s attorney general, Jose Eduardo Cardozo, said.
Cardozo said that the leftist leader, who was imprisoned and tortured under military rule, would give her first public reaction on Monday.
There was expected to be a euphoric reaction from the financial markets which have been betting on a Rousseff exit and the advent of a more business-friendly government to kickstart Brazil’s flailing economy.