Five key moments in Brazil impeachment battle

(File, AFP)
(File, AFP)

Sao Paulo - Brazil's suspended president Dilma Rousseff goes on trial before the Senate on Thursday, the final act in an impeachment drama that looks set to end 13 years of leftist rule.

Here are five key moments that brought us here.

Rousseff re-elected... narrowly

Rousseff swept to victory in 2010 at the height of an economic boom. Her predecessor and ally, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, stepped down as one of the most popular presidents in Brazilian history.

Four years later, with the economy slowing and corruption allegations tainting their party, Rousseff faced a bruising re-election campaign. She narrowly won a run-off on October 26, 2014.

But the economy only got worse, the graft scandal widened and her popularity ratings went into a tailspin.

Lula detained

Big-name politicians, construction magnates and oil executives continued falling in the corruption scandal centered on state oil company Petrobras.

The biggest name of all was snared on March 4, 2016, when police detained Lula for questioning. They released him several hours later, but prosecutors soon requested his arrest on money laundering charges.

In an audacious move, Rousseff named her embattled mentor her new chief of staff on March 16.

Hours later, the judge in charge of the Petrobras probe released a wire-tapped phone call between Rousseff and Lula in which she appeared to suggest that she appointed him to give him ministerial immunity.

Angry opponents swarmed into the streets in protest, and a judge blocked Lula from taking up his new job.

Rousseff and Lula now both face charges of obstructing justice.

'Get out, Dilma!'

A growing storm of anti-Rousseff protests peaked on March 13, when an estimated three million people nationwide marched to chants of "Get out, Dilma!"

Emboldened, her enemies in Congress pushed ahead with moves to impeach her - not for corruption, whose stain spreads across the political spectrum, but for accounting irregularities.

VP turns

Increasingly isolated, Rousseff struggled to hold her fragmented coalition together.

It unraveled for good on March 29, when vice president Michel Temer and his powerful centrist party, the PMDB, quit her government.

Temer, who had complained of being treated like a "decorative vice president," is now serving as interim president. He will take over Rousseff's job for good if she is convicted.

Rowdy impeachment vote

After a raucous debate marked by shouting, shoving, insults and spitting, the lower house of Congress voted to impeach Rousseff on April 17.

The Senate followed suit on May 12, suspending her pending the outcome of this week's trial.

Rousseff, who denies wrongdoing and calls the impeachment process a "coup," has vowed to fight to the bitter end.

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