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Brazil is very close to impeaching Dilma Rousseff

This Thursday's senate committee vote in favor of taking the trial of the suspended president to the full chamber, puts Brazil's deep political crisis back center stage a day before the opening of the Rio Olympics.
August 4, 2016, 8:57pm
Photo by Cadu Gome/EPA

The impeachment process against Brazil's suspended president, Dilma Rousseff, has been moved into the home stretch by a vote of a special senate committee in favor of taking the trial to the full chamber.

The committee's 14-5 vote has also put Brazil's deep political crisis back center stage a day before the opening of the Rio Olympic Games.

It comes nearly three months after Rousseff was suspended pending the trial over allegations that she deliberately manipulated national accounts to hide deficits after her reelection in 2014.

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Rousseff's May suspension left the presidency in the hands of opposition politician Michel Temer. Though he served as her vice president for years, Temer is now one of her fiercest enemies.

Rousseff has always equated the effort to impeach her with a "coup attempt" she says was organized by opposition leaders seeking to block the impact of corruption investigations.

These probes come within a broader judicial crusade against corruption that is centered on a massive kickback scheme emanating from the state-run oil company Petrobras. The investigations have already brought down leading figures from all political parties, including the governing Socialist Party, but have not directly touched Rousseff, even though she was minister of energy at the height of the scam.

The floor of the senate is now due to vote next Tuesday on whether to start the trial, with only a simple majority needed for this to happen. The supreme court's chief justice said last week that the verdict vote itself would take place on August 29, although others have suggested that it could be a few days earlier.

Counts of projected votes among the country's 81 senators carried out by Brazilian media suggest that Rousseff will probably loose and be permanently dismissed. This would allow Temer to remain in office until the end of her term at the end of 2018.

In a video posted on her Facebook account on Wednesday, Rousseff called on her supporters to step up their protests in anticipation of the trial by the full senate.

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"The mobilization and dedication of everybody at this time is very important" Rousseff said, speaking with soft determination in front of a printed flowered backdrop. "We can revert this game."

Brazil's political turmoil appears to have prompted many heads of state to stay away from Rio's Olympics due to kick off with an opening ceremony directed by Fernando Meirelles, the director of the acclaimed movie City of God, about kids in Rio's favelas.

Reuters news agency cited government sources this Thursday saying that 50 leaders were originally expected, but only 28 have so far confirmed their attendance, rather than the 50 who were expected. The sources said that none of them have asked to meet President Temer.

Related: Savior or Villain? A New Leader Steps Into the Scandal-Plagued Brazilian Presidency

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