Suspended Brazil President Dilma Rousseff was impeached Wednesday, days after she took the stand in Brazil’s Senate trial, defending her record and reminding lawmakers she was re-elected by receiving 54 million votes, according to the BBC.
The Washington Post reports Rousseff was stripped of her presidency and impeached by a vote Wednesday.
The impeachment process against Rousseff, 68, began in December 2015, facing allegations of fiscal irresponsibility, illegal accounting practices and legal infringement on budget law amid a depressed economy. Moving funds between government budgets is illegal under the Brazilian constitution, which she is accused of doing.
After being born to a wealthy ex-communist and Bulgarian immigrant, she grew up favoring leftist politics and, as a Marxist guerilla fighter, was jailed for three years because of her opposition to the Brazilian government, according to the BBC. Brazilian politicos believe when the Senate finalizes its impeachment vote later this week, Rousseff will be the first head of state removed from office.
It’s been a nine-month process, but the impeachment process began when the Brazilian lower house — the Chamber of Deputies — approved the process in April by a wide margin of 367 to 137. The Senate confirmed the decision 55-22 in May.
Here is what you need to know about Rousseff:
1. Brazil’s First Woman President, Rousseff Will Also Be the First President Impeached There
Rouseff was once a revolutionary with the Comando de Libertação Nacional (National Liberation Command), focused on leftist politics and workers’ rights. Then, in 2010, she made history by becoming Brazil’s first female president under the Workers’ Party banner, saying she would lift 20 million Brazilians out of poverty, according to the BBC.
But she also could become the first Brazilian president to be impeached.
Two-thirds of Brazilian Senators must vote to impeach Rouseff, which is likely, according to CNBC. Expected to reach the 54-member threshold (out of 84), Rousessf will also make history when she’s forced from office.
“We’ve last strong indications that over two-thirds of senators are likely to vote for impeachment,” said Monica de Bolle, non-resident senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics (PIIE).
2. Rousseff Defends Her Record, Saying She Has ‘Nothing to Hide’
Rousseff took the stand Monday to defend her record at the Senate’s impeachment trial hearing, having 30 minutes to plead her case. Senators are given five minutes each to ask questions and receive responses from Rousseff.
On Monday, the suspended president said she has always upheld and followed the constitution, according to the BBC.
“…I’m absolutely sure in relation to my acts as the president of the republic. And I am personally here before those who are judging me. I’m going to look into your eyes and say with the serenity of someone who has nothing to hide that I haven’t committed any crimes… and these accusations are unfair,” she told the Senate.
3. Rousseff Has Been Suspended From Power Since May, Through the Olympics & Vice President Michel Temer Has Been Sitting President
A wide margin of 367 to 137 in Brazil’s lower lawmaking chamber, the Chamber of Deputies, voted in April to move forward with impeachment proceedings against Rousseff. When the Senate confirmed that vote in May, Vice President Michel Temer took the reins as the country’s acting president.
If Senators vote to remove Rousseff permanently from office this week, Temer, a 75-year-old law professor, will become the recognized president until the 2018 election. He faces what some call a “tattered” economy — one that is looking to gain ground after the vacuum following the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio.
Rousseff had to sit on the sidelines during the Rio games, which lasted most of August. On the world’s biggest stage, the country’s head of state was nowhere to be found. Now “we return to the divisions, to the fighting,” Fabiano Angelico, a political consultant based in Sao Paulo, told USA Today.
4. Brazil’s Economy Has Been Tanking & Rousseff Was Trying to Paint a Prettier Picture
The Brazilian economy began slipping before Rousseff’s 2014 re-election bid. That’s when she broke the law, trying to cover up growing deficits, according to detractors.
But after Rousseff won re-election, vowing to battle poverty, the country’s economy still dropped further into recession. NPR reported in April the Brazilian economy shrunk by 3.8 percent and nearly 90,000 people lost their jobs in the state of Pernanbuco.
Government officials say nearly 11 million people are unemployed and inflation has jumped 15 percent since Rousseff’s re-election, according to The Bricspost.
Defending her record during the Senate hearing, Rousseff said, “What’s at stake here is the future of our country.”
5. Once Popular Rousseff Is No Longer a Favorite, Especially After Being Tied to the State-Run Petrobras Scandal
Operation Car Wash, or Lava Jato, is an investigation headed by a Brazilian federal judge exploring money laundering and corruption inside the state-run oil company, Petrobras. Two informants took a plea bargain, but tied Rousseff to the scandal since she chaired the board overseeing the company during the scheme.
Rousseff denied any wrongdoing, the BBC reported in 2014, when she was facing re-election. She won that race with 51.4 percent of the vote — an estimated 54 million Brazilians supported her — but it was still a thin margin.
Rousseff’s popularity began waning with a recessed economy. “I always voted for the Workers Party, since I was a teenager, but this government hasn’t done anything different,” voter José Abel told the New York Times then.
The government’s popularity under Rousseff hit a historic low at 7.7 percent — lower than the 10.8 percent previously reported — with nearly 63 percent of Brazilians supporting impeachment against the president, according to Reuters.