BRASILIA, Brazil (AP) - Brazil's Senate on Wednesday voted to remove President Dilma Rousseff from office, the culmination of a yearlong fight that paralyzed Latin America's most powerful economy and exposed deep rifts among its people on everything from race relations to social spending.
While Rousseff's ouster was widely expected, the decision was a key chapter in a colossal political struggle that is far from over. Rousseff was Brazil's first female president, with a storied career that includes a stint as a Marxist guerrilla jailed and tortured in the 1970s during the country's dictatorship. She was accused of breaking fiscal laws in her management of the federal budget.
Opposition lawmakers, who made clear early on the only solution was getting her out of office, argued that the maneuvers masked yawning deficits from high spending and ultimately exacerbated the recession in a nation that had long enjoyed darling status among emerging economies.
Nonsense, Rousseff countered time and again, proclaiming her innocence up to the end. Previous presidents used similar accounting techniques, she noted, saying the push to remove her was a bloodless coup d'état by elites fuming over the populist polices of her Workers' Party the last 13 years.
In the background through it all was a wide-ranging investigation into billions of dollars in kickbacks at state oil company Petrobras. The two-year probe has led to the jailing of dozens of top businessmen and politicians from across the political spectrum, and threatens many of the same lawmakers who voted to remove Rousseff.
Rousseff argued that many opponents just wanted her out of the way so they could save their own skins by tampering with the investigation, which Rousseff had refused to do.
Many lawmakers and Brazilians nationwide, meanwhile, blamed Rousseff for the graft even though she has never been personally implicated. They argued that she had to know, as many of the alleged bribes happened while her party was in power.
Rousseff's removal creates many questions that are not easily answered. Michel Temer, her vice president who became her nemesis, will serve out the remainder of her term through 2018. But Brazilians have already gotten a taste of Temer's leadership, and they are clearly unimpressed.
In May, Temer took over as interim president after the Senate impeached and suspended Rousseff. The 75-year-old career politician named a Cabinet of all-white men, a decision roundly criticized in a nation that is more than 50 percent nonwhite. Three of his ministers were forced to resign within weeks of taking their jobs because of corruption allegations, which also follow Temer and threaten his hold on power.
When Temer announced the opening of the Olympics on Aug. 5, he was so vociferously booed that he remained out of sight for the remainder of the games.
Rousseff's allies have vowed to appeal to the country's highest court. While previous petitions to the court have failed to stop the impeachment process, at the very least legal wrangling will keep the issue front and center.
Associated Press writer Mauricio Savarese reported this story in Brasilia and AP writer Peter Prengaman reported from Rio de Janeiro.
Mauricio Savarese on Twitter: https://www.twitter.com/MSavarese
Adriana Gomez Licon on Twitter: https://www.twitter.com/peterprengaman