President Dilma Rousseff delivers a televised address on Dec. 2 after the impeachment announcement.

Story highlights

Multimillion-dollar kickback scheme at state-run oil company Petrobras has plagued Rousseff

Tens of thousands of people have protested across Brazil, calling for her removal

Rousseff denies any wrongdoing

CNN  — 

A bid to impeach Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff has been launched by the Speaker of the country’s lower house of Congress, Eduardo Cunha.

Despite her re-election last year, Rousseff’s second term has been marred by a corruption scandal involving her own Workers’ Party that has sent her approval rating plummeting and provoked mass protests.

A sweeping corruption investigation into a multimillion-dollar kickback scheme at the state-run oil company Petrobras has embroiled dozens of the country’s leading businessmen and politicians. The President was the chairwoman of Petrobras during many of the years that the alleged corruption took place.

She has defended Brazilians’ right to protest and acknowledged the need to clean up corruption at Petrobras, but denied any prior knowledge of the alleged kickback scheme.


Rousseff said she received news of the impeachment proceedings against her with “indignation.” In a televised speech Wednesday evening, Rousseff said the arguments against her are “unfounded and inconsistent and that she has not committed any wrongful acts.”  

Why are Brazilians furious with Rousseff?

During her speech, she mentioned that unlike (Speaker) Cunha she “does not own any accounts abroad and has not concealed from public knowledge the existence of personal property.” She even took a step further to say that Cunha was trying to bargain the votes of members of the governing coalition in the Ethics Committee in Congress in return for not approving the impeachment. Rousseff concluded by saying she believes the impeachment process against her will be shelved.

Speaker allegations

Cunha is himself under scrutiny by the Ethics Committee for allegedly failing to disclose the existence of offshore bank accounts to the Brazilian internal revenue service. If found guilty, he’ll likely lose his post.

Cunha told a televised news conference, also Wednesday, that he was not happy about approving the impeachment proceedings against the President, but that it would be a good way to address an issue that has been circulating around the country for many months.

On several occasions over the past few months, tens of thousands of protesters have taken to the streets of cities across Brazil to demand the impeachment of the President. Many are also angry about Brazil’s tanking economy – Brazil is facing a protracted recession, high inflation and a currency that recently hit a 12-year low.

Rousseff, who won re-election in a tight runoff last year, now has an approval rating of less than 10%. This is the lowest approval ratings for any siting Brazilian president since the early 1990s.

What next?

Cunha will read his decision to Congress on Thursday, then create a special commission composed of lawmakers that will look at the accusations and hear the President’s defense. Rousseff has 10 congressional sessions to present her defense. The special commission will have lawmakers from all the parties represented in the lower house. After receiving Rousseff’s defense they will then have five sessions to make a decision to accept or reject the accusations.

Their findings will then go to a vote to the whole lower house, where a two thirds majority – 342 votes – will be needed to approve the impeachment of the President. If they vote in favor, then the vote will proceed to the Brazilian Senate.

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CNN’s Shasta Darlington contributed to this report from Rio de Janeiro.