Why Did Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff Just Get Impeached?

South America’s most populated country faced a historic Sunday as Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff lost an impeachment vote in the country’s Congressional lower house.

Halfway through voting, it was clear that Dilma was going to reach the two-thirds majority needed to proceed with the next step to a formal impeachment process. She currently has 272 of 364 votes cast against her. Speculation about her future as the president of Brazil will now move on to the Senate where she is also expected to lose. She will then have to step down for 180 days for a full investigation process, reported CNN.

Live screens set up all around the city of Sao Paulo gave both Rousseff supporters and haters the opportunity to see each of the 513 deputies publicly give their vote. Both sides manifested in the capital, either in celebration or defeat. Despite economic turmoil, corruption allegations, and an unpopular, costly Olympics coming up, Rousseff can still count on supporters who claim that the impeachment is a coup d’état in disguise to remove her left-wing government from power, pointing to endemic corruption across all political parties.

So, why did Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff get impeached?

Nosedive In Support

Poll information shows that Dilma’s defenders are in the minority. Rouseff’s impeachment is supported by 64 percent of the population, and only 10 percent say they approve of the job she is doing, reported The Guardian.

Some might explain away Dilma’s catastrophic drop in popularity by saying these respondents don’t count her Worker’s Party’s primary adherents — the poor and lower middle class. Yet even among them, the president is seeing a growing call for impeachment. According to recent Datafolha’s numbers, 65 percent of the bottom income bracket disapprove of Rousseff. That’s just 10 percent less than Brazil’s top income bracket, reported Forbes in an article that opened with the assertion that she is the most hated woman in her country.

why Dilma Rousseff get out protests
Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff just took another step toward impeachment. (AP Photo/Andre Penner)

Economic Woes

So why all of this uproar over tossing out Dilma? The answer largely centers around an economic outlook that is growing bleaker by the day and corruption scandals that have tapped a wide range of Brazilian politicians. Protests have called for the impeachment of Rousseff for months, at least partially because she’s the face of a country plagued by an uncertain future. Standard & Poor’s, Fitch, and Moody’s have all downgraded the nation’s sovereign debt status to junk this year.

Practically every other indicator also bodes poorly for Dilma’s economy. The country’s unemployment rate has hit its highest peak since Rousseff took office, and those who have jobs are combatting runaway inflation and decreasing wage values. Brazil’s GDP, long touted as Latin America’s golden child, will likely shrink by 4 percent this year, reported The Guardian. Protests calling for impeachment seem to be the only thing on the up in the Olympic-host country.

Why Did she just do that Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff Just Get Impeached?
Why did Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff just get impeached? (AP Photo/Eraldo Peres)

Corruption Accusations

Economic woes aside, nothing is dogging Dilma quite as much as the Petrobras scandal and another case which accuses her of using state banks to lower the deficit while seeking re-election. In the case of the former, she was also the oil company in question’s chairwoman of the board from 2003 to 2010.

Accusations at the heart of the scandal say that overinflated construction contracts were awarded by Petrobras in order to launder money into the government — at least partially, some argue, to finance Dilma’s presidential campaign. Last month, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, former president and mentor to Rousseff, was detained for interrogation about his role in the scandal. It’s not just within the president’s close circle either: all across the government, past and present public officials are being prosecuted, reported the New York Times. In fact, a third of the lower house deputies who voted on her impeachment Sunday have been cited for corruption.

Still, nothing has been proven against Dilma as of now, and Rousseff has remained staunch in her statements that she has done nothing outside of the law and has absolutely no intention of resigning. A trial may be the only way to get her to step down.

Now that you know why Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff just got impeached, what do you think about the decision?

[Image via Mario Tama/Getty Images]

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