Dilma Rousseff impeachment: how did the Brazilian government end up in office?

The removal of Dilma Rousseff in Brazil was a crushing blow to the anti-austerity movement, which was focused on fighting austerity that came about as a result of a fiscal stimulus programme championed by the government of Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva

What happened?

The lower house of Brazil’s Congress voted to impeach Rousseff on 14 January. She was accused of breaking the budget laws by artificially inflating government accounts and spending at times above the limits imposed by Brazil’s constitution. An impeachment trial starts on 15 February in the senate.

Why did it happen?

Brazil’s political class splintered over austerity policies that aim to reduce the country’s debts and deficits and improve its credit ratings, which took effect last year. The effort was backed by Lula da Silva, Rousseff’s predecessor and mentor.

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Supporters of the austerity policies said her government had committed fiscal crimes. Opposition members said the government caused the massive recession that the country is currently experiencing. There were also disagreements over the economic measures, as well as personal differences between Rousseff and Lula da Silva.

How did Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva get involved?

The Congress began impeachment proceedings after Brazil’s top electoral court accused Rousseff of unlawfully using state funds for campaign purposes when she ran for president in 2010. This left a legal gap that Rousseff used to stay in office after her term ended in 2016.

Why did it help Lula da Silva?

Lula da Silva was barred from running for president last year when he was convicted of corruption and money laundering. So his impeachment has given him a chance to reclaim the office he held for a decade, something that has given him a boost in the polls. However, prosecutors say they have more than 1,500 witnesses, including Lula da Silva, who will testify in the impeachment trial against Rousseff.

What is happening in Latin America?

The oil-rich region is in the grip of a decade-long economic crisis. This is largely blamed on low oil prices and a rise in the dollar, which puts a lot of pressure on developing countries that rely on commodities such as soy.

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What did Brazil do before the impeachment?

The country last held a non-electoral government from the middle of 2003 to the middle of 2006. That government held popular elections in 2003 and 2006. The party that held power was leftwing Workers’ party (PT), led by Lula da Silva, who is due to be inaugurated on 30 January 2016. The centre-right opposition led by former president Fernando Henrique Cardoso won the presidency in 2002.

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