RIO DE JANEIRO – Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff will have her first chance to defend herself in Congress on Monday as an impeachment process enters its final stages. Rousseff's speech and cross-examination in the Senate is expected to be the highlight of a trial that could permanently oust her on charges she mismanaged the federal budget. The fight for Brazil's leadership is about more than fiscal laws. The Associated Press explains how it got to this point and how the trial is playing out:
HOW ROUSSEFF'S SUPPORT COLLAPSED
Rousseff was re-elected to a second four-year term in October 2014. As the economy worsened, hundreds of thousands took to the streets in early 2015, with many demanding the ouster of Rousseff and her left-leaning Workers' Party. Her foes in Congress introduced a measure last year to impeach and remove her. In April, the Chamber of Deputies approved it 367-137 and in May, the Senate voted 55-22 in favor. Rousseff was suspended and Vice President Michel Temer became interim president.
THE CHARGES: ILLEGALLY MOVING MONEY BETWEEN BUDGETS
Rousseff is accused of illegally shifting funds between government budgets. Opposition parties say that was to boost public spending and shore up support while masking the depths of deficits. Rousseff says other former presidents used similar accounting techniques.
THE TRIAL UNFOLDS
Senators have questioned prosecution and defense witnesses over three days of heated debates. Rousseff herself will address the Senate and answer questions on Monday. A vote is expected by the middle of the week. A supermajority — 54 of the 81 senators — is needed to convict her, which would result in her permanent removal from office.
THE DEFENSE: IT'S A COUP!
Rousseff and her backers say impeachment is a "coup" by corrupt opposition lawmakers meant to derail investigations into billions of dollars in kickbacks at the state oil company. They also argue that Brazil's ruling class wants to end 13 years of leftist government. Opponents say Rousseff's budget maneuvers aggravated the crisis in Latin America's largest economy.
THE STAKES: OUSTER
A conviction would permanently remove Rousseff from the presidency and bar her from holding any office for eight years. Temer would serve out her term, which ends Dec. 21, 2018. If convicted, Rousseff would likely appeal to the country's highest court. But previous appeals during the process have failed.
ANOTHER POSSIBILITY: RETURN TO OFFICE
If fewer than 54 senators vote to remove her, Rousseff would return to office. She's promised that if that happens, she would let voters decide in a plebiscite whether they want early presidential elections.
BRAZIL'S POISONED POLITICS CLOUD THE FUTURE
Brazilians are soured on politicians in general; both Rousseff and Temer are very unpopular. A poll taken last month by Datafolha found that 62 percent want new elections to solve the crisis. But before new elections could occur, both Rousseff and Temer would have to resign or be removed from office.