Impeachment Trial Begins For Suspended Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff The impeachment trial for suspended president of Brazil Dilma Rousseff has begun. She is scheduled to testify before the Senate Monday.
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Impeachment Trial Begins For Suspended Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff

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Impeachment Trial Begins For Suspended Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff

Impeachment Trial Begins For Suspended Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff

Impeachment Trial Begins For Suspended Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff

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The impeachment trial for suspended president of Brazil Dilma Rousseff has begun. She is scheduled to testify before the Senate Monday.

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

We're going to spend the next several minutes overseas, starting in Brazil, with our regular segment Words You'll Hear. That's where we try to understand what's happening in the news by parsing some of the words associated with those stories. And our word is not Olympics. It's actually a name - Dilma, as in Dilma Rousseff. She was president until she was suspended, and is likely on her way out.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED CROWD: (Speaking Portuguese).

MARTIN: That is her impeachment trial you're hearing there. You can hear the anger. Tomorrow morning, the temperature will probably crank up even higher when Rousseff testifies before the Senate. Here to tell us more is Lulu Garcia-Navarro, NPR correspondent in Brazil. Hi, Lulu.

LOURDES GARCIA-NAVARRO, BYLINE: Hey.

MARTIN: So could you remind us again exactly why Rousseff is on trial? What's she accused of?

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Yeah, she is technically on trial for fiscal mismanagement of the economy. The accusation is that she was hiding the terrible state of the economy by filling budget shortfalls in popular social programs through creative accounting. It's a very technical issue. Her defenders say this is a longstanding practice going back many presidents from different parties and she is guilty only of a mistaken economic policy.

They say the Senate is not empowered to remove a legitimately elected leader simply because they don't like her decisions in running the economy. So ultimately, I think this trial is not about whether or not she committed a crime. You know, impeachment - it's a political act. It's not a criminal inquiry. So, you know, she's going to stand or fall not necessarily on the evidence, which is considered pretty weak, but rather on the political forces arrayed against her. And those are very strong.

MARTIN: Well, the impeachment trial, the proceedings themselves, began last week. What's happened so far?

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Well, as you heard there in the intro, it's been very dramatic, very impassioned - shouting matches, senators accusing each other of having no moral authority or standing to conduct the trial. You know, let me remind you that many of the senators in Brazil are under investigation for corruption, for bribery, something Dilma Rousseff has never been implicated in. That's become a huge point of contention, Michel. A Senate with so many under investigation is judging a president who has not been proven to be corrupt. And so that is the main point here that many are arguing.

MARTIN: What do you think we'll hear in her testimony on Monday?

GARCIA-NAVARRO: I think it's going to be really interesting. Rousseff has made it clear that she feels she's being removed through a coup. Let's not forget she's a former leftist guerrilla. She was tortured by the dictatorship. She's a fighter, and she wants to make her case to the end. She has always said she never considered resigning. She never wanted to make it easy for those who are seeking her ouster. We understand she will make a very personal statement about how her impeachment is a threat to Brazil's democracy. It's basically going to be her last chance to make her case directly to the Brazilian people, and she's going to take it.

MARTIN: And then what happens? After she testifies, what happens after that?

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Well, I mean, ultimately, after she testifies the Senate is going to vote. They need 54 out of the 81 senators to say that impeachment should happen, and it seems that they do have those numbers. It's almost inevitable that she will be removed. And then her vice president, Michel Temer, takes over for the rest of her term. She will also be barred from running for political office for at least eight years.

MARTIN: That was NPR's Lulu Garcia-Navarro joining us from Brazil. Lulu, thank you.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: You're welcome.

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Beginning Of The End? Impeachment Trial Opens For Brazil's Dilma Rousseff

Beginning Of The End? Impeachment Trial Opens For Brazil's Dilma Rousseff

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Brazil's suspended president, Dilma Rousseff, smiles during a rally Wednesday in Brasilia, Brazil. Eraldo Peres/AP hide caption

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Eraldo Peres/AP

Brazil's suspended president, Dilma Rousseff, smiles during a rally Wednesday in Brasilia, Brazil.

Eraldo Peres/AP

The impeachment trial opens today for Brazil's suspended president, Dilma Rousseff, over alleged fiscal mismanagement.

It's the final phase of a long process that could potentially remove her from office, as NPR's Lulu Garcia-Navarro reports from Rio de Janeiro. "It's really the end of the line," she tells Morning Edition, and says witnesses from the prosecution and defense will appear in the Senate and face questioning.

Rousseff is accused of "juggling the books to hide the real state of the economy" as she was running for re-election in 2014, Lulu says. And this trial will wrap up quickly — "Rousseff herself is set to testify on Monday, and then after that the Senate will vote. The whole thing will be over by next week."

Lulu has this recap of how we got to this stage in the process:

"Rousseff was re-elected in 2014. That was only two years ago, but it was by a very slim margin, it was a very tight election, and right after that the economy just began tanking. We saw huge protests, the largest in Brazil's history. And then her coalition partners started turning against her because there was this massive corruption investigation implicating many in the political class.

"And she always says that she has not been implicated in corruption while many of those who are judging her in the Senate, in Congress have been. She says this is a coup. She says she's innocent. And she says the people taking her down are trying to protect themselves from prosecution and undo years of progressive policies.

"So two very different ways of looking at what's happening to Dilma Rousseff."

And as Lulu reports, "everything points to the fact that she will not survive this." If 54 senators vote against her, interim President Michel Temer will be sworn into office for the remaining two years of her term. He's also deeply unpopular and used to be Rousseff's vice president.

Should Temer become president, his biggest challenge will be Brazil's ailing economy, as Lulu reports: "We've seen massive job losses, unemployment is at over 11 percent, and ultimately his fate hangs on whether he can resolve the important question of the economy for Brazilians."

As The Two-Way has reported:

"Rousseff has become increasingly isolated. She is living in the presidential residence but is rarely seen at public events. She refused to attend the Olympics opening ceremony because she says the move to impeach her is a coup by her right-wing political rivals. Even Rousseff's own political party, the Workers' Party, has largely abandoned her.

"Her mentor, former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, is also facing legal troubles. He's being investigated over allegations that he was involved in a massive corruption scandal at the state oil company Petrobras. Temer is also under investigation, accused of receiving illegal campaign contributions linked to the Petrobras scheme."

Do you have more questions about Brazil's complicated impeachment process? Head here for our explainer on the proceedings.