- Senate finished questioning witnesses on Saturday evening
- Chamber will hear Rousseff on Monday and vote by Wednesday
Brazil’s impeachment trial is headed into its final stage after three days of witness testimony, including a rare weekend session, that deepened divisions among senators debating whether to permanently remove President Dilma Rousseff from office.
The Senate finished questioning witnesses late on Saturday night, after starting the trial on Aug. 25. Lawmakers are expected to hold a final vote Tuesday or Wednesday, and are widely tipped to muster the two-thirds majority needed for Rousseff’s ouster.
Rousseff, 68, will make a final appeal in her defense on Monday, addressing Congress directly for the first time since proceedings started in late 2015. Dozens of her closest supporters are expected to attend the session to provide support, including her mentor, former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.
Brazilian magazine Exame reported that Lula traveled to Brasilia on Friday to persuade senators to vote against Rousseff’s impeachment; he arrived as news broke that police had charged him with corruption and money laundering, though he denied wrongdoing.
Lula’s lawyer, in a phone interview Sunday, said the charges disregard facts and are intended to prevent him for running for president in 2018. Cristiano Zanin said Lula hasn’t committed a crime and that the case is based on false premises.
Tempers ran high during the witness testimony in the Senate, as detractors and supporters of the Brazil’s first woman president traded barbs and accusations. Rousseff’s former chief of staff, Senator Gleisi Hoffmann, questioned the moral authority of Congress to try the president, and engaged in a heated discussion with Senate President Renan Calheiros that went viral on social media.
The tension underscores the polarized political environment that has emerged during the almost nine months of impeachment proceedings in Brazil against a backdrop of the worst recession in decades. Supporters of Rousseff accuse her would-be successor, acting President Michel Temer, of staging a coup, while critics say she mismanaged the economy and broke the budget law by illegally financing government spending.