On Thursday, May 12, 2016, Brazil’s president, Dilma Rousseff, was impeached. The Brazilian Senate voted to suspend her presidency for 180 days while she faced trial on corruption charges. If found guilty, Brazil’s acting president, Michel Temer, Rousseff’s Vice President, will finish out the term.
Historically, impeachment is a relatively rare occurrence – only two United States Presidents (Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton) have ever been impeached. Neither was removed from office. As rare as impeachment is, removal from office is even rarer. In fact, only one European leader has ever been removed from office through the impeachment process, Rolandas Paksas, the president of Lithuania in 2004. Paksas was removed from office just over a year after his swearing in on charges of violating his constitutional oath based on his alleged ties to Russian organized crime. Paksas was accused of illegally restoring the citizenship of Yuri Borisov, a helicopter manufacturer, who was convicted of selling arms to the Sudan. While these proceedings caused extensive embarrassment for the young democracy, Lithuanians can now point to the strength of their democracy – the impeachment proved that their constitution works.
The next six months will be very interesting as the world watches the proceedings in the second most populous country in the Western Hemisphere.