Congressional members of Brazil's lower house have voted to impeach President Dilma Rousseff Sunday in a fiercely contested ballot that could hasten the end of 13 years of leftist rule in the country.
Impeachment in Brazil
Of the 513 Congress members 342 voted in favor of impeachment, 127 against and six abstained. Rousseff’s supporters needed 172 votes to block the impeachment.
After the vote, Brazil's Attorney General, Jose Eduardo Cardozo, called it a paradox that the president of the lower house of Congress, Eduardo Cunha, is the one facing charges for corrpution, yet it is Rousseff who faces judgement. He went on to say that the fight for democracy will continue.
Cardozo considered the vote a purely political decision which constitutes a "coup against the government of Rousseff."
"All those who followed the process of impeachment saw that accusations against Rousseff have absolutely no background or basis. Indeed none of those accusing her discussed the reason that led to the charges," said Cardozo.
Each member was given 10 seconds to explain their reason for their vote.
The right-wing coup leaders showed their true colors as Eduardo Bolsonaro dedicated his "Yes" vote to the military that led the coup in 1964. Brazil suffered under a military dictatorship for 21 years thanks to those "military men".
Bohn Gass from Rousseff's Workers Party or PT, argued, "The people are the power and the people voted for the president ... For democracy and for the country, I vote 'No'."
The push to impeach Rousseff has united the Left, according to Adi Spezi of the Popular Front of Brazil, "It's been uniting campesinos, rural and urban workers, and students, in the understanding that the defense of democracy is the most important thing on top of any other issue at this moment ... And before this, they didn't have this unity at the same level."
In the lead-up to the vote, hundreds of thousands of pro-democracy and anti-government demonstrators took to the streets, gathering in public areas to watch the vote live.
Internationally too, the impeachment proceedings have sparked heated debate. In the U.K., public intellectuals, including Brian Eno, signed a petition to "defend Brazilian democracy."
"We are extremely concerned about the sustained efforts by sections of Brazil’s right-wing opposition to destabilize – and ultimately overthrow its constitutional and elected government," the petition read.
Ecuador's President Rafael Correa has also come out in support of Rousseff, arguing she is the victim of a media smear campaign.
"Today might be Dilma, tomorrow may be another,” he said. “But for the sake of democracy, for the good of our people, we must reject these strategies, these tricks."
The Senate will now vote on whether to approve or reject the impeachment proceedings within two days or up to 10 Senate sessions. If it is approved by a simple majority, then Rousseff will be required to temporarily step down as president for 180 days while the Senate convenes a trial to discuss the charges.
Vice President Michel Temer will assume the presidency in the interim.
If two-thirds or 54 Senators vote in favor of impeachment, Temer will serve out the remainder of the term, ending in 2018.