After 20 hours of debate, the Brazilian Senate has voted to suspend President Dilma Rousseff. A majority of senators voted in favor of the move that will see her leave office during an impeachment trial.
Brazilian senators voted 55-22 on Thursday in favor of suspending Dilma Rousseff from the office of president for six months and starting an impeachment trial against her. Only a simple majority was required for the impeachment to begin.
The trial, which is expected to last several months, will conclude with another Senate vote, in which a two-thirds majority will be required to remove Rousseff permanently from office.
The suspended president slammed the decision, claiming that she had been singled out for impeachment, partly because she is a woman.
"There has been, mixed in all this, a large amount of prejudice against women," Rousseff said at a news conference in Brasilia.
"There are attitudes toward me that there wouldn't be with a male president," she argued.
The Senate action came after the lower house voted 367-137 last month in favor of impeachment. On Monday, the head of the lower house annulled impeachment sessions only to revoke his own decision.
The allegations facing Rousseff are that she violated fiscal rules in handling the federal budget. She is charged with having illegally tapped state banks and taken loans to cover up budget deficits.
Rousseff has been replaced by Vice President Michel Temer, who had turned against the president during the political crisis in Brazil. If Rouseff is impeached, Temer would serve as president until elections in 2018.
Ahead of the vote, Rousseff had already packed up her office and was preparing to dismiss her ministers, Brazilian media reported. Aides said she would not help Temer in a transition since she considers the trial an illegal move by the opposition.
Rousseff has denounced the impeachment drive, calling it a coup attempt against her government. Brazil's first female president and one-time Marxist guerrilla, Rousseff also accused Temer of conspiring against her to steer the country to the right.
On Wednesday, police clashed with Rousseff supporters near the Senate.
Economic recession, Petrobras kickback scheme
The impeachment process, which has been going on for months, has been taking place during a deep economic recession and revelations of a kickback scheme in state oil company Petrobras.
Rousseff's defense lawyers challenged every step of the impeachment process in the Supreme Court, with Attorney General Jose Eduardo Cardozo requesting another injunction Tuesday.
Rousseff's ruling Workers' Party also requested the high court to block Temer from naming ministers before the end of the impeachment trial.
But on Wednesday, a Supreme Court judge denied the injunction to halt the Senate vote. Justice Teori Zavascki ruled the government's argument, that impeachment was flawed because it was started out of revenge by the former speaker of the lower house, was "legally implausible."
Rousseff's removal from office also ends 13 years of rule by the Workers' Party in Latin America's largest economy - just months ahead of the Summer Olympic Games in August.
shs/sms (AP, AFP, dpa)