Brazil impeaches, removes Rousseff over budget-corruption allegations

Give Brazil a gold medal in accountability after sticking the landing in its Senate. On a 61-20 vote, the upper chamber of the Brazilian legislature kicked President Dilma Rousseff out of office. The move comes after the exposure of a scheme that illegally took money from state banks in order to boost Rousseff’s left-wing public-spending programs:

Brazil’s Senate removed President Dilma Rousseff from office on Wednesday for breaking budgetary laws, ending an impeachment process that has polarized the scandal-plagued country and paralyzed its politics for nine months.

Senators voted 61-20 to convict Rousseff for illegally using money from state banks to boost public spending, putting an end to 13 years of leftist Workers Party rule in Latin America’s largest economy.

Conservative Michel Temer, the former vice president who has run Brazil since Rousseff’s suspension in May, will be sworn in on Wednesday to serve out the remainder of the presidential term through 2018.

Interestingly, though, the Brazilian Senate did not bar Rousseff from public office in the future, a decision made on a separate vote. That may not matter much; Brazil has suffered through a long recession and a number of public-sector scandals, including one at Petrobras, the state-owned oil giant. The recession, says Martin Langfield, has been the worst in Brazil’s recorded history, and it’s still not over yet. Brazilians might not be anxious to trust Rousseff with any office, let alone one that impacts their economy, in the future.

Perhaps sensing that, Rousseff and her legal team says they will appeal the impeachment to the nation’s highest court:

How likely is a victory in court? Unlike in the US, where the legislature has plenary authority to impeach and remove federal officials, there is an option to appeal to the judiciary in Brazil, at least according to a New York Times analysis three months ago.   However, the appeal option appears oriented to process rather than outcome, and it seems somewhat unlikely that the high court will act against the overwhelming consensus reflected in the legislature’s decision after the fact. According to Section III, violations of budget law and actions against “probity in the administration” are impeachable offenses, with the legislature set as the arbiter of allegations.

Since she has been left with the option to hold office in the future, perhaps the court will feel comfortable telling Rousseff that she should contest this in a political rather than legal forum. If the court intervenes to put Rousseff back into office, look out for the backlash that will surely follow.