SAO PAULO (AP) – A Brazilian Senate commission voted overwhelmingly on Friday to advance impeachment proceedings against President Dilma Rousseff, putting the embattled leader only one step away from being suspended from office.
Rousseff could now lose the presidency next week, even as Rio de Janeiro gears up for the Olympic Games this summer.
Rousseff has insisted that she has not committed any crime and that the proceedings against her are a coup. She says Vice President Michel Temer, the man who would take her spot, is an "accomplice" in the move to topple her.
Antonio Anastasia, of the right-leaning opposition PSDB party, issued the recommendation for the vote, saying there reasons to believe Rousseff broke fiscal laws, which are impeachable offenses.
"At this moment we are looking at whether the case should be accepted or not, and I think it should," he said.
On Friday, 15 of the 21 commission members voted to send the matter to the full Senate. Another five voted to end the process and the commission chairman did not vote.
All 81 senators will now consider a vote on Wednesday, in a session that could continue into Thursday.
Rousseff currently is expected to lose that vote as well. She would need 41 of the senators to vote in her favor to end the proceedings.
If the full Senate votes to suspend her, Rousseff will be removed from office for up to 180 days and be tried by senators in proceedings led by Brazil's chief-justice Ricardo Lewandowski. Rousseff will be permanently stripped of her mandate if two-thirds of senators later find her guilty at a final trial.
Temer has sought support for her impeachment since his party left the ruling coalition.
He also has not been shy in talking to potential Cabinet members and pro-impeachment leaders, something that was discussed during the commission vote. While impeachment advocates insisted that Brazil needed calmer times with Rousseff and her Worker's Party out of office, her allies called Temer a conspirator.
Rousseff, meanwhile, has celebrated the Brazil's Supreme Court decision to remove Eduardo Cunha from the speakership of Brazil's Chamber of Deputies. Cunha is accused of corruption and obstruction of justice.
Rousseff's solicitor-general Jose Eduardo Cardozo said on Thursday that he may ask the Supreme Court to annul impeachment proceeding against the president because Cunha allegedly abused his office to seek revenge against her.