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Brazil's Senate To Vote On Impeachment Of President Dilma Rousseff


In Brazil, these are expected to be President Dilma Rousseff's last hours in power. Police have locked down the capital, Brasilia. That's where lawmakers are preparing to vote to remove Rousseff from office so she can face an impeachment trial. There are reports that she has already taken her personal belongings from the presidential office. NPR's Lulu Garcia-Navarro joins us from Brazil. Hi, Lulu.


SHAPIRO: I'm good. You're at the Senate. We can hear the voices behind you. What is going on?

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Yeah, that's right. I am here at Brazil's Senate. And as you can imagine, during such a fraught process, it's pretty crazy. Hundreds of press are here outside the Senate hall. What you can hear behind me inside the Senate hall are senators after senators talking about why they're voting for or against the impeachment of the president. To be clear, Dilma, as you mentioned, is not expected to survive this vote. I'll give you an example of what one senator just said in his remarks. They are finishing with our companies, our jobs. We are voting to end this administration for Brazil. We deserve a better country. And that's just a taste of what the tone has been so far today. Dilma Rousseff is expected to suffer a grave defeat.

SHAPIRO: And reminder us of what she's actually accused of doing.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Yeah. She is being accused of fiddling the books by taking money from state coffers to shore up budget shortfalls. It's a technical issue. The case has long been considered pretty weak. But here we are today in what will probably be Dilma Rousseff's last few hours in office, as you said. The real reason she is being impeached depends on who you ask. But, you know, she has record-low approval ratings. Only 10 percent of the population approve of her. The economy is in a freefall - 1.8 million businesses shut their doors in 2015 here. Dilma Rousseff and her supporters, though, say that this is a right-wing coup. She says people are trying to push her out of office, you know, and she points out that many of the people who are voting against her today are the subject of their own investigations and that this is just simply unconstitutional.

SHAPIRO: Well, what happens next if, as expected, this vote goes against her?

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Unless she resigns, and she has said she is not going to - she has said she's going to fight this to the bitter end - she will now be put on trial in the Senate. While that process unfolds, she will be removed from office. And her vice president, Michel Temer, will take over. He's from a center-right party, and he's also deeply unpopular. And this is the main problem here, Ari, and why analysts say putting Brazil back on track isn't as easy as just removing the president. Temer has been accused of being involved in corruption. The head of the Senate, the head of the lower house of Congress have also just been removed from office because they're under investigation for graft. And a full 58 percent of the Senate is under some form of investigation for wrongdoing. And that's why, when you talk to ordinary Brazilians as they watch their television sets today, they'll tell you that they feel something very close to despair. You know, they want Rousseff gone, but the political class generally has been exposed by this process. And people have very little faith.

SHAPIRO: And this comes at a tough time for Brazil, between preparing for the Olympics and dealing with the Zika outbreak. What are the larger implications here?

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Yeah. The larger implications are very, very grave. You know, Brazil is one of the largest economies in the world. It is the largest in Latin America. And so what happens here has an enormous ripple effect. The markets have responded positively to Rousseff's impeachment, as her vice president is seen as much more business-friendly. But the fact is this process will probably drag on for many, many months, and that means the country is kind of going to be stuck in limbo and probably going to continue to be very unstable.

SHAPIRO: And political crisis mid-Olympics, perhaps?

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Possibly, although, you know, we are hearing that they are going to try to move this trial along - of Dilma Rousseff - so that does not cast a shadow over the Olympics. But it is indeed something that is worrying many people - that their - that this political instability will affect the games come August.

SHAPIRO: That's NPR's Lulu Garcia-Navarro in Brazil's capital, Brasilia. And she'll be continuing to follow this story. Thanks as always, Lulu.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Lulu Garcia-Navarro is the host of Weekend Edition Sunday and one of the hosts of NPR's morning news podcast Up First. She is infamous in the IT department of NPR for losing laptops to bullets, hurricanes, and bomb blasts.
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