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Brazil's Senate To Vote On Whether To Remove Suspended President


Senators in Brazil spent the whole night talking. They are giving speeches before voting today on whether to remove Dilma Rousseff, the president, permanently from power. This has been a trial - an impeachment trial. It's been dramatic. It's been grueling. The president herself testified for 14 hours straight on Monday. The question is whether this is enough to keep her in power. And to answer that question, we're joined from Brasilia by NPR's Lulu Garcia-Navarro. Hi, Lulu.


INSKEEP: What's it like to watch this trial hour after hour?

GARCIA-NAVARRO: It's extraordinary. As you can imagine, this is an historic moment for Brazil. And it's just something that has been going on for months and months and months. And this is now the end-game. Yesterday, the final case by the prosecution and defense were made to the senators. And there was this surreal moment, Steve, where one of the prosecutors, Janaina Paschoal, who was advocating Rousseff's impeachment, she burst into tears in her closing argument. She asked for Rousseff's forgiveness because she did not mean to cause Rousseff pain. And she concluded with this statement.


JANAINA PASCHOAL: (Through interpreter) I hope one day she understands that I did this for her grandchildren.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: I'm not sure she will understand that, but she was not alone in her tears. The defense lawyer, Jose Eduardo Cardoso, also wept openly after giving his defense. Then, 66 senators spent almost the whole night giving their speeches. They were speaking out in favor and against Rousseff. And that broke down, generally speaking, between those who are left of center, like Rousseff, or from the right of center. And here is right-leaning Senator Aecio Neves, who ran against Rousseff and lost in 2014 in the presidential elections, giving his speech before the vote.


AECIO NEVES: (Through interpreter) The consequence of these illegal acts with the loss of the credibility of the country, the deepening of the economic crisis with its effects on the daily life of Brazilians. The most perverse consequence of the acts of the president of the republic are the 12 million unemployed in our country.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: And then, Senator Humberto Costa, from Rousseff's Workers' Party, had this to say.


HUMBERTO COSTA: (Through interpreter) This is a coup disguised as an impeachment whose objective is to remove from power a democratically elected leader.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: So high drama, Steve. Those are the two arguments - either she sank the country through fiscal trickery, or she's the victim of a conspiracy.

INSKEEP: What does the president say?

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Well, lots, actually. As you mentioned, she spoke for 14 hours on Monday - sometimes emotionally - about her experience as a left-wing guerrilla who was tortured under Brazil's dictatorship. She said she's an honest politician, in marked contrast to many of those who are sitting in judgment of her. Some 60 percent of the congress in Brazil has been implicated in some sort of criminal wrongdoing, if you can imagine. You know, one senator who spoke in favor of her impeachment yesterday has been already condemned by the supreme court of Brazil to four years in prison for corruption, and yet he is still in office and able to vote on this matter. So, you know, very, very odd situation and certainly one that is causing a lot of tongues to wag in Brazil.

INSKEEP: So part of her defense can be, whatever I did, I've risen above the standards of the people judging me. OK, is that going to be enough to save her?

GARCIA-NAVARRO: No, it's not. You know, the pro-impeachment votes top 60. It's estimated only 54 were needed. We'll have to wait for the official tally, but it's a foregone conclusion at this point.

INSKEEP: How much do people talk about this on the streets?

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Oh, my gosh, it's something that everyone is talking about. Everyone is glued to the television sets. Every restaurant that you go into, every cafe has this on live. However, the reaction on the streets has been muted. We haven't seen large protests. We only saw one in Sao Paolo yesterday - about 500 people. It did get violent, but it was small compared to the massive protests, the historic protests that we saw happen that were seeking her ouster. So she's not really going out with a bang, but kind of with a whimper in many ways. Yes, she has her supporters, Steve, but even the people who wanted to remain in power who think that this was indeed a coup had trouble naming something that she herself had accomplished. You know, everyone sees her instead as sort of the embodiment of continuity, someone who pursued the leftist policies of her predecessor, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva. He basically appointed her as his anointed successor. But most of the analysts that I spoke to say she wasn't up to the task. She just didn't know how to govern.

INSKEEP: That's NPR's Lulu Garcia-Navarro in Brasilia. Thanks very much.

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