Brasilia, London – In a historic move that ended 13 years of leftist rule in the biggest Latin American state, Brazil’s Senate voted on Thursday to impeach President Dilma Rousseff, who was immediately suspended for 180 days pending a trial for using accounting tricks to hide large deficits in the federal budget.
Rousseff, 68, said the action was a coup.
She told her supporters in a speech that she would fight to prove her innocence.
“I am the victim of a great injustice,” said Rousseff. “I fought my whole life and I’m going to keep fighting.”
The new acting president, Michel Temer, who is of Lebanese origin called for unity in Brazil.
Temer moved quickly to announce a new Cabinet and said his government’s first priority is to get Brazil’s stalled economy going again. He also promised to support the widening investigation into corruption at the state oil company that has already ensnared leading politicians from a variety of parties and even implicated Temer himself.
Emerging a few hours after the Senate vote, Temer said it was a sober moment and made a bid for peace with Rousseff, offering his “institutional respect” for her and recognizing the impeachment campaign has caused deep divisions.
“This is not a moment for celebrations, but one of profound reflection,” he said during a swearing-in ceremony for his 22 Cabinet members. “It’s urgent to pacify the nation and unify the country. It’s urgent for us to form a government of national salvation to pull this country out of the serious crisis in which we find ourselves.”
Temer said Brazil must get its economy back on track and deal with the government budget deficit.
“Our biggest challenge is to staunch the process of freefall of our economy,” he said. “First of all, we need to balance our public spending. The sooner we are able to balance our books, the sooner we’ll be able to restart growth.”
Despite his pledges, Temer is not very popular. The majority of Brazilians have expressed their desire for him to step down.