Fireworks lit up the night sky in Brazil's megacities of Sao Paulo
and Rio de Janeiro after the opposition comfortably surpassed the
two-thirds majority needed to send Rousseff for trial in the Senate
on charges of manipulating budget accounts.
The floor of the lower house was a sea of Brazilian flags and
pumping fists as dozens of lawmakers carried in their arms the
deputy who cast the decisive 342nd vote, after three days of a
The final tally was 367 votes cast in favor of impeachment, versus
137 against, and seven abstentions. Two lawmakers did not show up to
Brazilian financial markets were expected to open higher on Monday
after the vote - a major step toward ending 13 years of the
left-leaning Workers' Party rule in the world's ninth largest
If the Senate now votes by a simple majority in early May to proceed
with the impeachment, as expected, Rousseff would be suspended from
her post and be replaced by Vice President Michel Temer as acting
president, pending her trial. Temer would serve out Rousseff's term
until 2018 if she is found guilty.
The impeachment battle, waged during Brazil's worst recession since
the 1930s, has divided the country of 200 million people more deeply
than at any time since the end of its military dictatorship in 1985.
It has also sparked a bitter battle between the 68-year-old Rousseff
and Temer, 75, that could destabilize any future government and
plunge Brazil into months of uncertainty.
Despite anger at rising unemployment, Rousseff's Workers Party can
still rely on support among millions of working-class Brazilians,
who credit its welfare programs with pulling their families out of
poverty during the past decade.
"The fight is going to continue now in the streets and in the
federal Senate," said Jose Guimaraes, the leader of the Workers'
Party in the lower house. "We lost because the coup-mongers were
Opinion polls suggest more than 60 percent of Brazilians support
impeaching Rousseff, Brazil's first female president, less than two
years after she won reelection in 2014.
While she has not been accused of corruption, Rousseff's government
has been tainted by a vast graft scandal at state oil company
Petrobras <PETR4.SA> and by the economic recession.
Hundreds of thousands of demonstrators from both sides took to the
streets of towns and cities across the vast nation, in peaceful
protests. Millions watched the congressional vote live on television
in bars and restaurants, in their homes or on giant screens in the
street, as the soccer-mad nation does for major football matches.
On the grassy esplanade outside Congress, a 6-foot-high (2-metre)
security barrier ran for more than 1 km to separate rival
demonstrations, a symbol of the political rift that has emerged in
one of the world's most unequal societies.
As the vote came to an end, hundreds of Rousseff supporters sat
downcast on red flags and banners on the grass. A young couple, on
the verge of tears, hugged each other.
On the pro-impeachment side of the wall, protesters sang and danced,
drinking beer and munching popcorn. Some took selfies and performed
handstands, celebrating a decision that many said was a victory
"Impeachment sends a clear message that the politics of this country
needs to be cleaned up," said Alesandra Dantas, a 28-year-old social
The impeachment battle has paralyzed the activity of government in
Brasilia, before the Olympics are held in Rio de Janeiro in August
and as it seeks to battle an epidemic of the Zika virus, which has
been linked to birth defects in newborns.
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Critics of the impeachment process say it has become a referendum on
Rousseff's popularity - currently languishing in single digits -
which sets a worrying precedent for ousting unpopular leaders in the
They note that Rousseff - who would be the first Brazilian president
impeached for more than three decades - is accused of a budgetary
sleight of hand commonly employed by many elected officials in
With Brazilians transfixed by the congressional vote, broadcast live
on television, legislators denounced corruption and the economic
downturn as they voted against Rousseff. One fired a popper of
confetti into the air.
But few of them mentioned the budgetary allegations.
However, business lobbies have thrown their weight behind the ouster
of Rousseff, as they look to Temer to restore business confidence
and growth to the $2 trillion economy.
Adriano Pires, head of the Rio de Janeiro-based Brazilian
Infrastructure Institute, said the departure of Rousseff could lead
to an opening of the country's crucial oil sector. Union leaders,
meanwhile, have voiced fears about privatizations and job cuts.
Once regarded as an emerging markets powerhouse, Brazil has been hit
by the end of a long commodities boom and lost its coveted
investment grade credit rating in December.
So far this year, however, Brazil's stocks and currency have been
among the world's best-performing assets on growing bets that
Rousseff would be removed from office, allowing Temer to adopt more
In a sign that rally could continue, an exchange-traded fund of
Brazilian equities <1325.T> gained 3.8 percent shortly after the
result was announced.
While Rousseff herself has not been personally charged with
corruption, many of the lawmakers who decided her fate on Sunday
Congresso em Foco, a prominent watchdog group in Brasilia, said more
than 300 of the legislators who voted - well over half the chamber -
are under investigation for corruption, fraud or electoral crimes.
As they cast their vote, some lawmakers said the next politician to
be impeached should be the man leading the proceedings, Speaker
Eduardo Cunha. He is charged with corruption and money laundering in
the kickback scandal involving Petrobras, and he also faces an
ethics inquiry over undeclared Swiss bank accounts.
"God have pity on this nation," Cunha said as he cast his vote in
favor of impeaching Rousseff.
(Additional reporting by Anthony Boadle, Stephen Eisenhammer and
Lisandra Paraguassú in Brasilia, Guillermo Parra-Bernal in Sao Paulo
and Jeb Blount in Rio de Janeiro; Writing by Daniel Flynn, Stephen
Eisenhammer and Anthony Boadle; Editing by Peter Cooney, Kieran
Murray and Mary Milliken)
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