A special impeachment committee in Brazil’s Senate recommended that President Dilma Rousseff be put on trial over charges of breaking budget laws, setting the stage for her potential suspension and new leadership for Latin America’s largest economy.
The committee voted 15-5 on Friday to approve a report that concluded there was enough evidence to try Rousseff in the Senate for allegedly using accounting trickery to hide a wide budget gap.
Rousseff has denied the allegations.
“I am the living proof that a coup is being orchestrated against all advances made in the last 13 years,” she said.
Rousseff also addressed the decision to suspend Eduardo Cunha, the president of the Chamber of Deputies, who began the impeachment process against her in December.
Cunha is facing graft charges from a corruption probe at Brazil’s state oil company Petrobras.
“It took a person void of any moral and ethical principles, accused of money laundering and hidden accounts, to perpetrate this coup,” she said.
Her removal would mark an end to 13 years of rule by the left wing Worker’s Party that began in 2003 under her mentor, former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.
The full Senate appeared almost certain to vote for a trial by late next week.
If a simple majority of the body’s 81 senators agreed that Rousseff should be prosecuted, she would have to step down immediately to face trial.
Vice President Michel Temer would then replace her as president during the proceedings, which could last a maximum of six months.
If she is convicted, he would finish out her term, which ends on January 1, 2019.
According to sources, support for Rousseff’s eventual ouster is strong in the Senate.
Many analysts have said her chances of survival are slim.
However, If the impeachment takes place, much would depend on Temer, a former ally-turned-enemy, who would be under pressure to prove that he is capable of pulling Brazil out of its deep economic crisis.
Rousseff’s fight for her political life comes as the country is struggling to deal with its worst recession since the 1930s and high inflation, EFE news reported.
Though she is not directly charged with corruption, the country’s top prosecutor has ordered a probe against her for obstructing justice in the Petrobras scandal.
Lula has also been accused of playing a key role in the Petrobras scam and a probe has been ordered against him. Lula, who was in office between 2003 and 2011, has denied all the allegations. He was appointed as a cabinet minister last month by Rousseff, ostensibly to give him immunity from prosecution.
Workers Party Senator Lindbergh Farias said Rousseff’s ouster is primarily aimed at undoing Lula’s work to help the poor, rolling back workers’ benefits, privatising state companies and aligning the country’s foreign policy closer to the US.