Brazilian President, Longtime Champion of Anti-Corruption, Faces Impeachment

Dilma Rousseff is accused of manipulating government finances to hide a deficit.

ByABC News
April 18, 2016, 7:34 PM
Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff arrives for a meeting on state land issues, at Planalto presidential palace in Brasilia, Brazil, April 15, 2016.
Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff arrives for a meeting on state land issues, at Planalto presidential palace in Brasilia, Brazil, April 15, 2016.
Eraldo Peres/AP Photo

— -- Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, whom Hillary Clinton once praised for “setting a global standard” on fighting corruption, is now facing impeachment for allegedly manipulating government finances to hide a growing deficit.

On Sunday, lawmakers in Brazil’s lower house of Congress voted to start impeachment proceedings against her, according to Brazilian news media. When the final tally was announced, 367 lawmakers had voted to impeach Rousseff, more than the two-thirds needed to pass the motion.

Who Is Dilma Rousseff?

Rousseff is a Brazilian economist and politician, the first-ever female elected as president in Brazil.

In 2014, Forbes named her the fourth most powerful woman in the world.

And in April 2012, then-Secretary of State Clinton showered admiration on Rousseff at the first meeting of the Open Government Partnership, an international initiative co-chaired by Brazil and the United States aimed at fighting corruption.

“I want to commend and thank Brazil, in particular President Rousseff, for the leadership that they have given to this initiative,” Clinton said. “There is no better partner to have started this effort and to be leading it than Brazil, and in particular, President Rousseff. Her commitment to openness, transparency, her fight against corruption is setting a global standard.”

Brazilian citizens celebrate the result of the vote in the Lower House concerning the impeachment proceedings for Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff in Rio de Janeiro, April 17, 2016.
Antonio Lacerda/EPA

Why Is Rousseff Facing Impeachment?

Rousseff is accused of violating fiscal laws by allegedly using loans from public banks to cover budget shortfalls, which artificially enhanced the budget surplus. She is alleged to have done this to enhance the government’s performance to help her win re-election to a second term in office in 2014.

Rousseff is also accused of obstructing investigations into the oil company Petrobras. Rousseff chaired the company’s board of directors from 2003-2010.

Rousseff has denied any wrongdoing and says any talk of impeachment is tantamount to a coup.

Brazil's lawmakers celebrate after they reached the votes needed to authorize President Dilma Rousseff's impeachment to go ahead, at the Congress in Brasilia, April 17, 2016.
Evaristo Saevaristo/AFP/Getty Images

What Happens Next?

The Senate will vote on whether to put Rousseff on trial. If the vote passes, Rousseff will have to step down for 180 days to defend herself in an impeachment trial, and Vice President Michel Temer will replace her.

A Senate trial could last up to six months. If two-thirds of senators were to vote to impeach at the trial's conclusion, Rousseff will be out of office for good.

Will This Affect the Upcoming Olympic Games?

The Rio 2016 Summer Olympics were meant to showcase Brazil’s status as a rising economic powerhouse. Despite Brazil's political and economic troubles, and the Zika virus outbreak in the region, Olympics officials say preparations are on track.