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Brazil's Senate Votes To Remove President Dilma Rousseff From Office


Brazil has a new president. The Senate voted to remove the former leftist leader Dilma Rousseff. Now in her place is the right-leaning politician who was her vice president. This political drama comes as the country prepares for the Summer Olympics and deals with the health crisis over the Zika virus plus a punishing economic recession.

Joining us from the capital Brasilia is NPR's Lulu Garcia-Navarro who has been covering this story night and day. Hello again, Lulu.


SHAPIRO: All right, so when we talked to you yesterday, Congress was a zoo. There were hours of speeches and debates, a late-night vote. And it sounds like Rousseff is not going quietly.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: No, far from it, Ari. She addressed the nation from the presidential palace after the decision was announced. And then she went out on to the streets to appeal directly to her gathered supporters.

She's refusing to resign, she says. She says she will pursue this process until the bitter end. She said she's innocent of the charges against her, which are for fiscal mismanagement, if you'll recall, and she accused her opponents of overthrowing her for political gain. Let's listen.


DILMA ROUSSEFF: (Through interpreter) When an elected president is stripped of her mandate for a crime she did not commit, the name that is given in the democratic world is not impeachment. It is a coup.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: She also called on her supporters to take to the streets in her defense.


ROUSSEFF: (Through interpreter) For Brazilians who are against the coup independent of their partisan position, I make this call. Mobilize. Be united and in peace.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: What this means, effectively, is that while you have a new president in office, the old one, Ari, will be sitting just down the road, trying to get back into power, which could make things, as you can imagine, very difficult.

SHAPIRO: Trying to get back into power - as this trial unfolds, you told us yesterday it could go on for six months. What is next for Rousseff? Is there any chance of her returning to power?

GARCIA-NAVARRO: You know, it's very unlikely, Ari, that she will return to power. She is facing a grueling trial in the Senate that could go on for quite some time. It could cast a pall over the Olympics. But it is unlikely that indeed she will be able to reanimate her political career.

SHAPIRO: What do we know about the new president and his plans for Brazil?

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Right. His name is Michel Temer. He is now the president. He is right-leaning, as I mentioned, which is a huge shift from the last 13 years of left-leaning government. He's already caused controversy. He's appointed to his cabinet only white men.

To remind you, Brazil is a majority mixed-race country. There is also not a single woman in a senior post, and that is getting a huge amount of comment on social media. In his remarks, he spoke of a new era and lifting Brazil out of the economic doldrums.


MICHEL TEMER: (Through interpreter) It is urgent to calm down the country and unify it. It is urgent to form a government of national salvation.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: You know, Temer's job, according to the analysts I've spoken to, is that he has to very quickly try and reanimate the economy. He's a man who's deeply unpopular, and he's been implicated in a massive corruption scandal, if you can imagine. So he will only have a very small window of opportunity, say analysts, to get things moving.

SHAPIRO: What are average Brazilians on the street saying about all of this?

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Well, as you can imagine, this is a deeply polarized country, and this process has been very traumatic. It's gone on for months and months, so you're getting very different reactions. You know, if you go on social media here, you can see the top trending hashtags on Twitter are aimed at either vilifying the removal of Dilma Rousseff or celebrating it.

You know, it's unclear I think at this point how to reunite these two sides, but more than anything, if you speak to average Brazilians, they want to see the economy recover. That's their main priority. The recession here is devastating, and that is what they want to see Michel Temer, who is now president of Brazil, take onboard.

SHAPIRO: NPR's Lulu Garcia-Navarro, thanks, as always.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.