By Jess McHugh @McHughJess On 04/17/16 AT 3:27 PM
Activists supporting the impeachment of President Dilma Rousseff take part in a protest in Sao Paulo, Brazil April 17, 2016. Rousseff risks being driven from office if the lower house votes in favor of an impeachment trial Sunday. Photo: AFP/Getty Images
UPDATE: 6 p.m. EDT -- With 100 votes cast, 73 congressmen voted in favor of Rousseff's impeachment and 27 voted against or abstained, Reuters reported.
The opposition needs votes from 342 out of the 513 congressmen to force Rousseff to face an impeachment trial in the Senate on charges of manipulating budgetary accounts to support her 2014 re-election.
Brazilian lawmakers opened the session to discuss President Dilma Rousseff's impeachment Sunday, as rival protests both in support and against the embattled leader took place across the capital Brasilia. Rousseff stands accused of hiding the size of the national deficit during her re-election campaign in 2014, but allegations that she helped hatch as massive embezzlement scheme while serving as the head of state-owned oil company Petrobras have fueled support for her impeachment.
The lower house of Brazilian Congress began voting Sunday, and if the majority votes in favor, the Senate will begin an impeachment trial. Brazilian citizens are deeply divided on the issue, and passionate demonstrations brought thousands of people into the streets both in support of and against Rousseff.
"If impeachment is not approved, it will go on like this, stalled," one unemployed 58 year-old woman told Agence-France Presse at a demonstration Sunday, adding, "Dilma's exit is a first step for the country to move forward."
Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff attends a meeting at Planalto Palace in Brasilia, Nov. 27, 2015. Photo: EVARISTO SA/AFP/Getty Images
The controversy comes as an ongoing recession threatens to shrink South America’s largest economy by nearly 3 percent by the end of the year, according to Bloomberg. While many families have credited the welfare programs of Rousseff’s Worker’s Party with lifting them out of poverty in the past decade, wealth disparity has grown more apparent in the run-up to hosting the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro this summer, as authorities attempt to clear the streets of the city’s slums before the games.
Rousseff has vowed she has not done anything that her predecessors had not also done, saying the impeachment process is a scheme devised by her political rivals. “They want to convict an innocent woman and save the corrupt. ... Would those leading the coup allow the fight against corruption to continue? What's their legitimacy?” asked Rousseff in an op-ed she wrote for the Folha de São Paulo published last week.