Despair in Brazil as Senate takes up Rousseff impeachment | Americas| North and South American news impacting on Europe | DW | 19.04.2016
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Despair in Brazil as Senate takes up Rousseff impeachment

President Rousseff's supporters are planning their next move after the lower house advanced her impeachment. Opponents have vowed to take out other figures in Brazil's government too. Bruce Douglas reports from Brasilia.

Next month, Brazil's Senate is expected to vote to temporarily remove Dilma Rousseff from office pending an impeachment trial in the Supreme Court. Vice President Michel Temer, a member of the Brazilian Democratic Movement Party, could take over her office as early as mid-May and would hold it for at least six months - or possibly until the end of 2018.

In recent weeks, the prospect of Rousseff's removal from office has brought thousands of the president's supporters to Brasilia, with many declaring that a coup is underway. In the shadow of the Mane Garrincha national football stadium, government supporters, trade unionists and representatives of social movements have bused in from all over the country to set up a vast tent city, complete with kitchens, portaloos and a stage.

Over a period of six hours on Sunday, 367 legislators in the 513-seat Chamber of Deputies voted to impeach Rousseff in a parliamentary procedure that had all the naked aggression of a football match.

Dilma Rousseff, Brasilia

Many say a congressional coup is at the heart of the campaign to impeach Rousseff

'In the streets'

Following Sunday's vote, security officials began dismantling the large steel barrier that they had set up to minimize clashes between Rousseff's supporters and protesters who want her out. Though the barriers are down, the rhetoric is even more heated.

"The fight will carry on in the streets," Tatiane Fernades, a member of the PT's youth wing from the northeastern state of Alagoas, had said ahead of the vote, pledging that government supporters would dig in for a long battle in the president's defense.

By late Monday, however, about 100 people remained in the area by the football stadium. Workmen noisily dismantled the camp's marquees as activists hugged each other sadly goodbye and headed back to their hometowns.

"Sunday was a difficult day," said Najara Leite, a 27-year-old PT activist from Sao Paulo. "Everyone walked back to the camp in silence, thinking about the next step, about what we can do to defend democracy."

Leite, an indigenous woman who has benefited directly from the PT's education and housing policies, said she was worried that Rousseff's likely removal would result in a reversal of many of Brazil's social programs. "After Sunday, everyone realized that this fight is bigger than we had anticipated," Leite said. "But this has given us strength, because if things carry on as they are, it is the working classes, the indigenous, Afro-Brazilians who are going to lose out the most."

Anti-Rousseff celebration

The president's opponents celebrated Sunday's vote

What's next?

In a park just a few hundred meters away, a smaller group of anti-government activists were also heading home, but those who remained were expressing satisfaction. The 30-year-old shop assistant Glaucia Oliveira, for example, described her reaction as one of joy and relief.

"That was the hardest part, to secure the votes against her in the chamber of deputies," Oliveira said. "From now on we're confident she will be removed."

Dennis Heiderick, a 24-year-old law student, said his "heart was pounding like mad" as he watched legislators cast their votes against Rousseff. He and other members of the anti-Rousseff camp promised that Sunday's initial impeachment vote was only the beginning.

"There is a new consciousness among Brazilians," Heiderick said. "The people are now awake and scrutinizing their politicians. Corruption is not just a problem in the Workers' Party but also in other parties and governments. We won't hesitate to come back onto the streets if Temer lets us down."

Opinion polls show that 61 percent of Brazilians want to see Rousseff removed, and 58 percent want to see Temer impeached, as well. Regardless of whether Rousseff survives the process - and regardless of whether her erstwhile ally Temer manages to take over and hang on to her job - Brazil is set for a long period of political instability.

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