Brazil’s Senate voted Thursday morning to suspend President Dilma Rousseff and begin an impeachment trial against her, ousting a deeply unpopular leader whose sagging political fortunes have come to embody widespread public anger over systemic corruption and a battered economy.
In a vote of 55 to 22, lawmakers accepted the charges against Ms. Rousseff, accusing her of borrowing from state banks to conceal a looming deficit, a budgetary sleight of hand that critics say was aimed at securing her re-election two years ago.
“We could no longer ignore these crimes and thus voted for impeachment,” Álvaro Dias, a senator from the Green Party, said shortly before casting his vote. “Having been assaulted by incompetence and wrongdoing, Brazilians expect punishment.”
During her impeachment trial, which could last six months, Ms. Rousseff will be replaced by a onetime ally, Vice President Michel Temer, who has been convicted of violating campaign finance limits and will now be under tremendous pressure to stem Brazil’s worst economic crisis in decades.
Describing the effort to remove her as a coup, Ms. Rousseff, the first woman to be president of Brazil, has repeatedly rejected calls to resign, vowing to continue her fight to stay at the helm of Latin America’s largest country.
But given the margin of opposition against her on Thursday, political analysts said she stood little chance of winning the trial and finishing the remaining two and a half years of her final term in office.
Demonstrators in support of removing the president from office rallied outside Congress in Brasília on Wednesday. Credit Felipe Dana/Associated Press
“Given the polarization in Brazil, if she sticks to her guns and fights this all the way to the end, it’s going to prolong the agony for the country,” said Mauro F. Guillén, a professor of international management at the University of Pennsylvania. “The best thing she could do for her country is to bite the bullet and step aside.”
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Months of ugly invective, secret maneuvering and legal appeals have divided a nation already buffeted by inflation, government paralysis and a colossal corruption scandal that revealed the depths of Brazil’s profoundly troubled political system.
Though widely expected, the spectacle of Ms. Rousseff’s being put on trial is a watershed in the power struggle consuming Brazil, which experienced a rare stretch of stability over the last two decades as it strengthened its economy and achieved greater prominence on the world stage.
Now, those gains are coming undone, with millions of working-class Brazilians sinking into poverty as the country endures its second year of recession.
The nation’s economic woes are not simply a result of falling global prices for Brazilian commodities like oil and soybeans. They are also self-inflicted, economists say, a consequence of flawed policies and enormous graft scandals. Many voters blame Ms. Rousseff and her leftist Workers’ Party.
“Everything is so expensive now, we can barely afford to eat,” said Juliana Santos, 29, a ticket-taker who works for a public bus company in Brasília, the capital. “The Workers’ Party promised they would change things, but they changed things for the worse.”