Dilma Rousseff: 5 questions you asked and we answered

Published 6:02 PM EDT, Thu May 12, 2016
01:06 - Source: CNN
Why Brazil impeached President Rousseff

Story highlights

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff faces an impeachment trial

Internet searches turn up a list of questions

Some are harder to answer than they seem

(CNN) —  

The Internet is buzzing over the suspension of Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, who’s out of a job for up to 180 days now that senators have voted to begin an impeachment trial against her.

Google searches for the embattled Brazilian leader turned up a list of questions.

Some of them are harder to answer than they seem. It’s a volatile situation, and there have been many twists and turns over the past few months. But here are the latest answers, based on CNN’s reporting:

Why is Dilma Rousseff being impeached?

Actually, she hasn’t been impeached, technically speaking. Senators have just voted to begin an impeachment trial against her. In the Brazilian system, if she’s found guilty, then she’ll be impeached and removed from office permanently.

But as for why all this is happening, Rousseff is accused of breaking budgetary laws by borrowing from state banks to cover a shortfall in Brazil’s deficit and pay for popular social programs.

Rousseff says she’s no different than other Brazilian leaders, who she argues have done the same thing without facing impeachment.

“I have made mistakes, but I have not committed any crimes. I am being judged unjustly, because I have followed the law to the letter,” Rousseff said Thursday.

02:55 - Source: CNN
Dilma Rousseff: This is a coup d'etat

What do the polls say about Rousseff?

Rousseff’s popularity soared when she was elected Brazil’s first female President in 2010. But now, the numbers don’t look so good.

Lately, her approval rating has been hovering around 10%, according to recent polls, because of the worst recession in decades and a bribery scandal involving state-run oil company Petrobras and dozens of politicians in her party and governing coalition.

For some context, pollster Ipsos said in a report last month that Rousseff’s approval rating was around 15%, while former U.S. President Richard Nixon’s approval rating was 25% before he resigned and former U.S. President Bill Clinton’s approval rating was 65% before his impeachment.

Rousseff told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour last month that low approval ratings shouldn’t fuel a push to remove a democratically elected leader from office.

“In Brazil … just as is the case in the U.S., no one can carry out an impeachment process out of sheer unpopularity of the President, because unpopularity is a cyclical thing,” Rousseff said. “Because if it were not so, all Presidents, all Prime Ministers in Europe that experienced 20% unemployment rates would inevitably have to go through an impeachment process. Because they, too, experienced substantial drops in their popularity.”

01:39 - Source: CNN
Amanpour to Rousseff: You're 'rated one of the worst leaders'

What is she accused of?

That depends whom you ask. Officially speaking, she’s accused of breaking budget laws.

But her government has been fighting corruption allegations for a while.

A sweeping investigation into a multimillion-dollar kickback scheme at the state-run oil company Petrobras embroiled dozens of the country’s leading businessmen and politicians. While she isn’t accused directly of profiting, Rousseff was the chairwoman of the state oil company during many of the years of the alleged corruption.

And even though she’s not implicated in the scandal, millions of Brazilians have taken to the streets to demand her ouster over the institutional corruption and tanking economy.

How much of her term is left?

Rousseff’s term is set to end in December 2018. Right now, she’s suspended for up to 180 days, and Michel Temer is the acting President. If she’s found guilty in the impeachment proceedings, she’ll be removed from office.

But Rousseff said Thursday that she has no plans to leave.

“In the name of all the people of my country, I am going to fight with all the tools legally available to me to exercise my mandate to the end, which is the 31st of December of 2018,” she said.

Who is behind the impeachment?

Again, like many things in Brazil’s tumultuous political landscape, it depends whom you ask. But in the country’s lower house, one man had been leading the charge: Eduardo Cunha.

Cunha launched a bid to impeach Rousseff in December. He was the speaker of the lower house until last month, when the Supreme Court suspended him from all congressional duties for allegedly obstructing corruption investigations and intimidating lawmakers.

Eduardo Cunha launched a bid to impeach Rousseff in December.
EVARISTO SA/AFP/Getty Images/File
Eduardo Cunha launched a bid to impeach Rousseff in December.

Rousseff argued Thursday that the impeachment proceedings are the latest in a string of tactics used for years by political opponents in an effort to push her out of power.

“Since my election, part of the opposition remained incredulous about my victory. They started to conspire openly for the impeachment. … My government was the target of nonstop sabotage,” she said.

CNN’s Shasta Darlington, Flora Charner and Marilia Brocchetto contributed to this report.