A Brazilian Senate committee voted on Friday to recommend starting an impeachment trial against President Dilma Rousseff, who now faces being suspended from office in less than a week.
The special committee’s decision was non-binding but marked the last formal stage before the full Senate votes Wednesday on whether to put the leftist leader on trial.
“The case now goes to the full federal Senate,” announced opposition Senator Raimundo Lira.
With the Senate considered almost certain to open the trial next week, Rousseff is preparing to step aside for up to six months while the 81 senators decide her fate, plunging Brazil into ever deeper political infighting.
As soon as Rousseff is suspended Vice President Michel Temer, a center-right politician whose party recently broke off its shaky alliance with Rousseff’s Workers’ Party, would become interim president.
At the end of the trial, which could take months, a two thirds majority would be needed to remove Rousseff from office.
The impeachment battle, a crumbling economy, and corruption probes against dozens of leading politicians and business executives have left Latin America’s biggest country in turmoil ahead of the Rio Olympics this August.
The impeachment is based on accusations that Rousseff made illegal accounting maneuvers to mask the depth of Brazil’s economic troubles during her tight 2014 reelection victory.
The country’s first female president says the charges are trumped up to turn the impeachment process into a coup d’etat and that she will not give in.
“I have the nature of someone who resists and I will resist to the last day,” she said Friday at a ceremony where she handed over housing to the poor, one of the Workers’ Party’s signature policies – and one she claimed would be threatened by her departure.
The Senate vote and debate next week is expected to take more than 20 hours, likely stretching into Thursday, Brazilian media reports said. Rousseff’s suspension could take effect Friday, according to current estimates.
She would be allowed to remain in her presidential residence but will lose access to the executive offices and will be on half pay. There are still questions over her exact status, including whether she will be able to use Air Force planes for travel.
While Rousseff fights for her political survival, both her closest allies and some of her most bitter enemies are being sucked into an ever deepening corruption scandal centered on state oil company Petrobras.