By Lise Alves, Senior Contributing Reporter
SÃO PAULO, BRAZIL – On Sunday night (April 17th) Brazil’s Lower House voted 367 to 137 to authorize the impeachment process to go on to the Senate. Although there were strong indications on Sunday morning that the government would lose, the pro-impeachment tally was much higher than expected.
One by one the 511 representatives stepped up to the microphone to deliver his or her vote. They cast their votes in the name of their children, their parents, their spouses, their political parties, their cities and states. As each voiced their vote, there were hisses and boos or cheers and applauses, depending on which side of the issue they were on.
Outside the Congress the two groups, separated by a kilometer-long metal barrier monitored the votes, cheering at each vote cast to their side. After the final tally, the groups moved out in an orderly fashion, with no major incidents reported.
The feared clashes between pro and anti-impeachment groups never materialized, and no major incidents were reported by security officials in Brasilia, São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro and other cities which held rallies.
According to São Paulo military police 215,000 showed up at Avenida Paulista’s pro-impeachment rally, while another 75,000 gathered kilometers away, at Vale do Anhangabau to show support for President Rousseff. In Brasilia, officials say 26,000 people were on hand to root for Rousseff, while 53,000 were there calling for impeachment. The military police did not release attendance numbers in Rio de Janeiro.
The pro-impeachment tally was much higher than many expected. “We are outraged. [The decision is a] rupture of the Constitution, and in our opinion a blow to democracy and the 54 million Brazilians who elected the President,” said Attorney General Jose Eduardo Cardozo on national TV minutes after the end of the Congressional session. “What we saw today was another step in a coup, the coup of April 2016, which will go down in history as a reprehensible act,” he added.
Cardozo stated in the official government address that President Rousseff was disappointed with the outcome of the vote, she did not plan to resign or to weaken her position.
“I have heard the question: will [Rousseff] resign? Will she weaken [her position]? No!,” firmly stated the Attorney General. “A person who believes in the causes will go until the end for those causes to go down in history as [a person] who did not back down and fought for what she believed. If she is a victim today of a deliberate action, it is up to her to show society that she is not willing to give up the democracy so bitterly won,” he added.
According to Cardozo, President Rousseff will address the nation on Monday on national TV. Cardozo along with former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and a few of Rousseff’s closest aides watched the voting session at the President’s home.
Very similarly to what occurred in the Lower House, Brazil’s Senate is now expected to set up a special commission to draft a report with recommendations on whether or not to proceed with an impeachment trial. All the senators will then vote the report and if a simple majority agrees, the trial will start. President Rousseff will then be suspended for the duration of the trial from her executive position, and Vice-President Michel Temer will govern the country.