My Own Private Brazil

Growing up in Massachusetts, Brazilian-born Julia Furlan often felt like an outsider.

It took many years and living far away for Julia to figure out where she fits on the map.

In this personal essay, she talks about her childhood, falling in love and her changing relationship with Brazilian-American identity.

Featured Image courtesy of Julia Furlan –”This is me making a joke as a 4-year-old, putting my dad’s Brazilian pajamas over my dress. Those pajamas were rad–I wish they still existed!”

Brazilian Black Lives Matter

Police killings of black men and women in the U.S. have been dominating the headlines, spurring a national dialogue on police brutality against black U.S. Americans. While it may feel like an epidemic specific to the U.S., Brazil shares a similar situation.

Police brutality against Afro-Brazilians runs rampant in Brazil. According to Amnesty International and the Public Security Institute, police killings in Brazil have increased by 135 percent in the last year. Figures show 75 percent of those killed by police in the past year were black men.

African roots – and anti-black racism – both run very deep in Brazil. Brazil imported more African slaves than any other country during the Atlantic slave trade era. An estimated four million slaves from Africa were brought to Brazil during the period from 1501 to 1866. Furthermore, Brazil abolished slavery in 1888, the last country in the Americas to do so.

Brazil’s 2010 census shows that 97 million Brazilians, or 50.7% of the population, identify as black or of mixed race. Though Afro-Brazilians make up more than half of Brazil’s population, they still remain largely marginalized and discriminated against politically, economically, and socially.

This past Julho Negro (Black July), a month devoted to focusing on the issues afflicting the Afro-Brazilians, Black Lives Matter delegates from the U.S. traveled to Rio de Janeiro to join forces with Brazilian activists fighting anti-black racism.

We hear from Débora Maria da Silva, the founder of Mães de Maio (Mothers of May), an advocacy group representing mothers who have lost children to police brutality. She, amongst other Brazilian activists, spent time and worked with American Black Lives Matter activists through panel discussions, solidarity marches, and school visits. We also hear from two of the BLM activists who went to Rio, Bishop John Selders and Reverend Waltrina Middleton, about their takeaways from their newly founded American-Brazilian coalition.

Featured Image courtesy of Reverend Waltrina Middleton.

How To Lose 30 Billion Dollars: A Brazillionaire’s Story

When journalist Alex Cuadros arrived in Brazil as a reporter for Bloomberg’s “billionaires team” in 2010, no man loomed larger than Eike Batista. His $30 billion mining and oil fortune made him the richest man in Brazil, and the 8th richest man in the world. He cut the image of the ultimate billionaire playboy—he had been married to a Playboy covergirl, was a speedboat racing champion, and kept a million-dollar Mercedes parked in his living room.

In a new book titled Brazillionaires, Cuadros chronicles the meteoric rise and fall of Eike Batista. Eike’s enthusiasm for the Brazilian economic boom was contagious, and easily raised billions of dollars in investment in his companies. But, soon, cracks began to appear in his empire. His son Thor ran over and killed a poor favela-dweller in a car accident, sparking outrage in Brazil. And around the same time, investors began to suspect that Eike’s promises of huge profits were overambitious. The fall was sudden, and fast.

Latino USA producer Marlon Bishop spoke with Alex Cuadros about Eike’s story.

Featured Image by ANTONIO SCORZA/AFP/Getty Images.

7-to-1: The Loss That Shook Brazil

A decade ago, Brazil was a country on the rise. In the midst of a global recession, Brazil’s economy was the envy of the world. High commodity prices for Brazilian exports like soy, as well as new oil discoveries, meant times were good for the country. Brazil was booming, and the country won the right to host the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympics.

Today, however, the situation in Brazil is far from what many had hoped for. President Dilma Rousseff faces a long impeachment process (she has been accused of corruption, though others have called it a coup), many members of Congress are facing corruption and money laundering charges, and the unemployment rate continues to rise.

For many Brazilians, there is one specific moment that has come to symbolize this sudden change in fortune.

It was 2014, and Brazil was hosting the World Cup for the first time since 1950. The tournament came at the height of Brazil’s economic boom, and many saw it as Brazil’s chance to finally announce the country’s arrival as a major player on the world stage. Expectations were sky high, but in the end the Brazilian soccer team suffered a shocking, lopsided loss to the German team.

The final score was 7-1; it was Brazil’s worst loss since 1920 and the worst defeat of any host nation in World Cup history. As Brazilian journalist Juliana Barbassa writes in her book, Dancing with the Devil in the City of God, the loss “exposed the gap between Brazil’s aspirations and its ability to achieve them.” And the loss spoke to an even deeper issue in Brazilian society: corruption.

Featured Image by Martin Rose/Getty Images.

Are Brazilian-Americans Latino?

Brazil is the largest country in Latin America and yet it is not clear whether Brazilians identify as Latino. There are a lot of cultural similarities between Brazil and their neighboring countries – a national obsession with soccer, similar cuisine. But unlike the rest of Latin America, they were colonized by Portugal and speak Portuguese, not Spanish.

So Latino USA hit the streets of two Brazilian-American enclaves – Newark, NJ and Somerville, MA – to ask Brazilians whether they identify as Latino.

We also hear from Buzzfeed’s Julia Furlan about what the Brazilian-American experience looks like.

Featured Image by OLIVER LANG/AFP/Getty Images.

Report of a Gang-Rape in Rio de Janeiro Shocks Brazil

BRASÍLIA — Shortly after midnight on Wednesday, 20-year-old Michel Brasil da Silva uploaded a 30-second clip to Twitter, accompanied by the words: “They smashed the chick. Do you get it or do you not get it? lol”

The clip showed an undressed, unconscious woman lying on a bare mattress. She was being filmed by two men, both fully dressed, who took turns manhandling and mocking her.

“This one just got knocked up by 30 guys,” one of them says.

“Check out the state she’s in. Bleeding,” says the other, directing the camera toward her visibly injured genitals. At one point, the man positioned his head next to the unresponsive woman’s buttocks, stuck out his tongue, and took a selfie.

The footage set off a firestorm on social media and brought national attention to the reported gang-rape of a 16-year-old by as many as 33 men in Rio de Janeiro over the weekend — a crime the police had no knowledge of until social media users contacted them en masse.

Rio de Janeiro’s Public Prosecutor’s Office had received some 800 tips within hours of the short clip and selfie going online, according to news site G1. By Wednesday evening, the Prosecutor’s Office had launched an investigation and said it had identified the victim. In herstatement to police, obtained by Brazilian magazine Veja, the minor said that she’d met up with Lucas Perdomo Duarte Santos, a 19-year-old classmate she’d been dating for three years, at his house around 1 a.m. on Saturday. They were alone, according to the victim.

The next thing she remembers, she said, is waking up on Sunday. She was naked, drugged, and surrounded by 33 armed men, in a house she did not recognize.

The acts recorded in the video occurred one day after the reported gang-rape of another teenager — a 17-year-old allegedly victimized by five teenagers she knew, in the northeastern state of Piauí.

The confidence with which the Rio suspects boasted about what had just taken place, coupled with their decision to not only record, but disseminate, incriminating evidence, has prompted a vigorous discussion here about sexism, violence against women and impunity.

“This case has rattled Brazilians,” said Vanessa Dios, a researcher at the Brasília-based feminist institute Anis. She added that the irrefutable visual proof has kept more familiar responses to rape cases in Brazil from taking hold, such as “I don’t think that’s what really happened,” and “the girl is probably exaggerating.”

“Even so,” Dios said, “many people responded to the footage with justifications” that the victim had brought this on herself. “The day-to-day culture of codifying women’s bodies persists in Brazil. They are constantly given signals to what constitutes acceptable behavior. Among men, the notion that they are allowed to touch and grab women without permission endures.”

By the time his Twitter account was suspended, Silva had already retweeted a deluge of replies to his uploaded video — a characteristic one being, “They wrecked that one’s body hahahahahahahahaha the train ripped her hard.” In response to those who told him to take the footage down, Silva wrote, “People see worst stuff in this [expletive] and don’t complain. Just because I posted the chick’s video they now wanna talk crap. [Expletive] it… The video stays. If it bothers you, don’t follow me.”

Silva did not respond to several attempts to reach him by phone. A Facebook profile widely attributed to him by social media users who have attempted to crowdsource information about the crime has been taken offline.

On Thursday, Cybercrime Police Department Sheriff Alessandro Thiers lodged a judicial request to have four suspects arrested, Veja reported. The magazine names them as Silva, the 20-year-old who uploaded the video, Marcelo Miranda da Cruz Corrêa, 18, who also circulated footage of the crime, Raphael Assis Duarte Belo, 41, who allegedly appeared in the clip and took a selfie with the victim’s body, and Santos, the victim’s romantic interest, whom police suspect of direct involvement in the gang-rape.

“What we have in Brazil is a cultural stew of sexism and sexual violence,” Congressman Marcelo Freixo, president of the Human Rights Commission of Rio de Janeiro, said in a telephone interview. According to Freixo, Rio de Janeiro registered 4,725 rapes in 2014 — an average of 13 per day. “We can’t say that we live in a democratic country with rates of sexual violence like these,” Freixo said. “We’re talking about a city that’s about to host the Olympics.”

Freixo on Wednesday accompanied the victim to her first medical exam since the attack. He later announced that the commission will monitor the investigation and make sure that the victim receives psychological support.

“It’s a systemic issue, not confined to one economic class or the other,” he said, regarding rape cases across the country. “And there are politicians who get elected thanks to hate speech.”

Though Freixo didn’t mention him by name, Congress Jair Balsonaro, who represents Rio, has built a reputation for spouting off avowedly anti-feminist and anti-LGBT comments. In 2014, Balsonaro told a fellow congresswoman that he’d never rape her because she didn’t deserve it. In April, he dedicated his vote in favor of impeaching now-suspended President Dilma Rousseff to her “boogeyman,” the colonel who oversaw the torture she endured as a young activist during Brazil’s dictatorship.

Bolsonaro was the most-voted Rio de Janeiro candidate for congress in the 2014 election.

On the same weekend that the Rio teenager was reportedly gang-raped, a 17-year-old girl was found bound and gagged in Bom Jesus, a city in the northern state of Piauí. The victim and the suspects — five teenage boys — knew each other, and socialized on the night of the attack. The crime in Piauí came almost a year to the day after a similar tragedy stunned the state: four teenage girls were gang-raped, beaten and thrown off a cliff. One of them died.

But news of the Rio and Piauí crimes reverberated across social media on Thursday. On Twitter, the hashtag #EstuproNuncaMais (#RapeNeverAgain in English) trended worldwide. On Facebook, São Paulo-based artists Luciana Fernandes and Beatriz Rezende mobilized feminist circles and created Por Todas Elas (For All the Women, in English), a mass protest group with demonstrations now scheduled across five cities.

On Thursday evening, in a Facebook page widely reported across Brazilian media to belong to the Rio victim, she wrote, “Thank you for everyone’s support. I had honestly expected that I’d be judged harshly.”

Brazil’s Temer Swears in New Cabinet

Top Story — Brazil’s acting President Michel Temer spoke of the need to restore confidence in the South American country, both among its citizens and the international community, in his first speech since assuming power on Thursday, some 12 hours after Dilma Rousseff was suspended and forced to face an impeachment trial by the Senate.

Temer introduced his cabinet during his public address, his choice of members signaling a shift to the political right after 13 years of leftist Workers’ Party rule. Almost immediately, the president’s cabinet was criticized nationally and abroad for not including any women or people of color. Bernardo Mello Franco, a columnist for leading Brazilian daily Folha de S. Paulo, described the new cabinet as the most significant ideological shift since the 1964 coup that ushered in 30 years of military dictatorship, and that the new government is “liberal in economic terms and conservative in every other respect.” At least three of Temer’s new ministers are under investigation in relation to the massive kickback scheme at state oil company Petrobras.

Beyond the demographic makeup of Temer’s cabinet, the appointment which caught the most attention was that of Finance Minister Henrique Meirelles, who will face the dilemma of trying to calm international credit markets and address a fiscal budget deficit without too harshly cutting popular social spending programs.

Protesters tried to invade the official presidential office, Planalto Palace, on Thursday afternoon as Temer introduced his cabinet. Earlier that morning, Rousseff delivered a speech from the palace, reiterating that she did not commit a criminal act and that the effort to impeach her amounted to a coup. Rousseff has 20 days to present her impeachment defense to the Senate.

Headlines from the Western Hemisphere

North America

Fernando Aportela, Mexico’s deputy secretary for finance, warned Thursday that if a new U.S. government were to block remittances to Mexico cooperative efforts to prevent money laundering and other financial fraud would be dealt a serious setback.

Mexico’s new ambassador to the United States assumed his position on Thursday, meeting with embassy personnel and saying he would “defend the interests of Mexico and Mexicans” as Donald Trump emerges as the likely Republican presidential nominee.

In light of the Panama Papers revelations, Mexico is stepping up efforts to combat tax evasion by requiring banks to share the names of local clients who have transactions in tax havens.

Caribbean

The Dominican Republic will hold general elections on Sunday with all 4,106 positions, ranging from the presidency to vice mayors, in play for the first time since 1994. Incumbent President Danilo Medina is predicted to win, though analysts differ on whether he can avoid a runoff.

Haiti’s health ministry delivered a truckload of medical supplies to the country’s biggest hospital on Thursday, through doctors said the few dozen boxes of gauze, gloves and other basic materials were not nearly enough to end a strike that has spread through Haiti’s health system. Resident doctors at the hospital have refused to see new patients since late March, saying the government does not provide them with adequate resources or compensation.

U.S. Congressman Raul Grijalva said the continued stalling of Puerto Rico’s debt bill, the release of which was again delayed Thursday morning, would result in the need to pay for a humanitarian aid package as the territory struggles to maintain basic social services.

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff’s impeachment could have a negative impact on Cuba, reports Reuters, as the island has relied on a beneficial exchange of Cuban medical and education services for credit on favorable terms from Brazil’s leftist government.

Central America

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security announced that it is planning another series of raids that would lead to the deportation of Central American mothers and children who entered the United States illegally following Jan. 1, 2014, a proposal that has drawn criticism from both Democratic presidential candidates.

A new map produced by an international conservation agency highlights the critical role Central America’s indigenous communities play in preserving the region’s forests, data that may help leaders assert their rights to their ancestral lands.

Andes

A U.S. district judge dismissed a civil suit brought by the Central Bank of Venezuela against DolarToday, a website run by Venezuelan exiles in Delaware that publishes the exchange rate of Venezuelan Bolivars in the border town of Cúcuta, Colombia. The Central Bank alleged that the website was part of a conspiracy to manipulate the country’s currency amid escalating inflation — claims the judge dismissed “with prejudice.”

Sony Television announced the creation of a Spanish-language television show based on the life of former Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez, a decision that Venezuela’s socialist leaders fear will damage the late leader’s legacy.

The United Nations refugee agency warned, in a press release, that some 6,000 mostly indigenous and Afro-Caribbean residents of Colombia’s Western Chocó department have been displaced in recent weeks by fighting among illegal armed groups.

Southern Cone

Argentina’s energy minister said Thursday that the government intends to stop importing light crude oil this year, using domestic refineries to limit the need for supplies from abroad. Despite its large oil and gas reserves, Argentina is a net energy importer, which has drained its foreign reserves.

Despite new reports of record inflation in Buenos Aires, the Financial Times notes that President Mauricio Macri’s government has been loaded with “Wall Street alumni,” evidence, along with a recent, successful bond issue, of Macri’s pro-business orientation.

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Brazilian Senate Votes to Impeach Rousseff

Top Story — Brazil’s Senate has voted to suspend President Dilma Rousseff and begin an impeachment trial over accusations that Rousseff manipulated the country’s budget to cover up economic troubles.

LAND’s Brazil-based editor Cleuci de Oliveira was in Brasília for the impeachment vote. Her report examines last night’s impeachment vote and the process that led to Rousseff’s suspension.

Wednesday’s 55 to 22 votes in favor of impeachment took place after a debate in the Senate that lasted nearly 22 hours. Rousseff will step down for up to six months while her impeachment trial takes place, allowing Vice President Michel Temer to take over. Rousseff is now the second out of four democratically-elected presidents to be removed from office since the country returned to democracy in 1985 following decades of dictatorship.

The vote marks the culmination of months of struggle between Brazil’s politicians, many of whom have themselves been accused of wrongdoing: Rousseff’s Workers’ Party is enmeshed in a massive corruption scandal at state-owned oil firm Petrobras; Temer is accused of violating campaign finance laws, and some of his top advisors are under investigation for corruption; and the politician who led the early effort to impeach Rousseff, former speaker of Brazil’s lower house of Congress Eduardo Cunha, had to step down amid allegations that he accepted some $40 million in bribes.

Headlines from the Western Hemisphere

North America

Well-known drug trafficker Rafael Caro Quintero has continued to traffic illegal drugs since his 2013 release from a Mexican prison, using his wife as an accomplice, according to a statement from the U.S. Treasury Department. Quintero had been convicted of ordering the torture and murder of a U.S. anti-drug agent and others in Mexico in 1985.

Mexico’s population of internally displaced people is growing as organized crime violence has forced thousands to flee their homes, with some estimates at over 35,000 people, according to the country’s Human Rights Commission.

The reason behind Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán’s transfer to another prison may have been a power outage in his wing of the Altiplano prison that had authorities worried he was plotting another escape, according to a report by a Mexican columnist citing government sources.

Caribbean

A bill dealing with Puerto Rico’s debt crisis that was meant to be released on Wednesday was delayed as the House Natural Resources Committee responsible for the bill continues to make “minor refinements,” though a Republican aide said the much-anticipated might be introduced today. Meanwhile, The New York Times reports Puerto Rico’s economic crisis may forecast similar fiscal woes in the U.S. mainland, as pension promises made decades ago are now coming due without the means to pay them, the painful situation economists call “deferred costs.”

Central America

The Thompson Reuters Foundation examines the major factors behind El Salvador’s high levels of violence and soaring homicide rate– such as the United States deportation of gang leaders, the aftermath of the war on drugs, and allure of gang culture– after interviewing a wide range of El Salvador’s citizens, from academics to gang leaders themselves.

Thousands of protesters maintained road blocks on 14 major roads in Guatemala, calling for the government to nationalize electricity, distribute land to the peasant class, and halt the persecution of human rights defenders, among other demands.

Andes

The office of Colombia’s attorney general announced Wednesday that it is investigating the National Liberation Army (ELN) rebel group’s top five leaders for some 16,000 war crimes and crimes against humanity allegedly committed by the group, including murder, kidnapping and forced recruitment. The investigations come in the wake of a March announcement by government and ELN representatives that they would begin peace negotiations, despite the group’s continued kidnappings and attacks on oil facilities.

In an effort to combat corruption and improve its reputation following recent scandals, Colombia’s national police force has fired more than 1,400 officers since a new general took over the force 80 days ago.

Anti-government protests in Venezuela got heated on Wednesday as soldiers responded with tear gas to the stone-throwing of demonstrators angered by the delay in the verification of the some 1.85 million signatures submitted by the opposition on May 2 in favor of a referendum to recall President Nicolás Maduro.

Southern Cone

Some 80,000 students marched in Santiago and other cities throughout Chile on Wednesday to demand drastic education reform to rid the current system of enduring Pinochet-era characteristics.

Argentine opposition lawmakers are preparing to introduce a jobs bill which would temporarily halt private and public sector layoffs for six months, and double pensions for those who are actually laid off, a move the austerity-focused and business-friendly President Mauricio Macri is likely to oppose.

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Rousseff Will Face Impeachment Trial as Temer Becomes Interim President

BRASÍLIA — The Brazilian Senate voted to approve an impeachment trial against President Dilma Rousseff on Thursday morning, following a marathon session that began on Wednesday and lasted nearly 22 hours.

The Senate’s vote draws months of political dealing and sudden twists to a close. Rousseff is now forced to step down for up to 180 days to stand trial as Vice President Michel Temer is sworn in as interim president.

Rousseff was impeached for having allegedly violated Brazil’s fiscal laws to obscure a budgetary deficit ahead of her 2014 re-election. Her administration came undone, however, due to an economic downturn that she struggled to contain and a sprawling corruption scandal at state oil giant Petrobras that engulfed key members of her Workers’ Party, including her predecessor and mentor, former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva.

A total of 55 out of 77 senators voted to approve Rousseff’s impeachment trial on Thursday, surpassing the required simple majority by 16 votes.

The 15-minute window allotted to each of the senators’ speeches ensured that the vote only took place at 6:33 a.m. The session, while long, was by and large a reserved affair — a respite from the raucous April 17 Chamber of Deputies vote that first secured Rousseff’s impeachment and was marked by chanting, spitting, an homage to a dictatorship-era torturer and a roomful of Congressmen facing graver charges than the now-ousted president.

Rousseff is now the second Brazilian president impeached in less than 24 years. The first, former President Fernando Collor de Mello, returned to politics after his 1992 impeachment and is currently a senator. He voted on Thursday in favor of Rousseff’s ouster.

The impeachment case against Rousseff concerns a creative accounting practice known as fiscal backpedalling.

She is accused of covertly delaying repayments to state banks. By doing so, her critics argue, Rousseff strong-armed public institutions into loaning her funds to pay for popular social programs that were the cornerstone of her administration. Brazil’s fiscal laws prohibit state banks from opening credit lines for the federal government.

Rousseff has argued that past presidents also delayed repayments without having to face impeachment proceedings. She has said that her actions do not amount to a “crime of responsibility,” and that her opponents’ efforts to oust her constitute a coup.

“Did I commit these acts? Yes,” Rousseff said, the day after 367 out of 513 congressmen voted to impeach her. “But I did not commit them illegally. I have been treated in a way that others have not.”

Her critics argue that the backpedalling acts committed under Rousseff’s administration differ from those performed by her predecessors.

“It’s true that past presidents had to pay state banks back in order to balance their budgets,” said Eduardo Mendonça, a constitutional law professor and former Supreme Court ministerial advisor. “But Rousseff’s case contains two key differences, regarding magnitude and time span.”

Former President Fernando Henrique Cardoso, for instance, paid back an average of $290 million (at adjusted rates) in 2001 and 2002, according to investigative non-profit Pública. By contrast, between 2013 and 2014, Rousseff paid back a total of $25 billion.

In addition, the Rousseff administration took longer than usual to make the repayments, according to Mendonça.

“It’s the difference between me owing you money for a month, versus nine months, or two years,” Mendonça said. “The question is, did she exploit an ordinary mechanism to commit fraud?”

Beyond the issue of payments, Brazilians hold Rousseff responsible for an economic downturn that has landed the country in the worst recession of the last 80 years. The week-to-week revelations about the kickback scheme at Petrobras stoked the public’s anger toward her Workers’ Party and motivated her opponents’ drive toward impeachment. But it was her inability or unwillingness to play by the rules of Brazilian politics that proved to be her fatal flaw.

“Rousseff was a bad politician and a worse economic strategist,” said Brian Winter, vice president of policy at the Americas Society/Council of the Americas. “She ran Brazil by personal fiat, rather than through negotiation.”

“In a country with 200 million people, you have to build consensus,” Winter said. “She didn’t like to talk to people in her cabinet, let alone leaders in the business world, or special interest groups.”

Rousseff glided into her first electoral victory in 2010 with 56 percent of the vote, buoyed by the record-breaking approval ratings enjoyed by Silva, her predecessor and political mentor, as well as a commodity boom powered by foreign, especially Chinese, demand for Brazilian exports. Since then, The Wall Street Journal reported, the Chinese appetite for Brazil’s soy, iron and oil reserves contracted, economic mismanagement caused a recession and inflation, unemployment shot up by 4.2 percent and Brazil’s credit rating was downgraded to junk.

“The basic facts surrounding the Petrobras scandal were pretty evident before her re-election in 2014,” Winter said. “So you gotta ask, what’s changed? The answer is that the economy took a major turn for the worst.”

While Rousseff faces charges of attempting to obstruct the Petrobras investigation, she is not implicated in the scheme itself, unlike her opponents.

Temer, Brazil’s new president, stood accused of playing a key role in the appointment of two Petrobras executives that have since received prison sentences for bribery and fraud. The investigation into his role in the scheme was shelved last week. He also faces his own call for impeachment over fiscal backpedalling. On May 3, a São Paulo court convicted Temer of illegal campaign financing, making the new interim president ineligible to run for office for the next eight years.

Eduardo Cunha, the former Congressional House Speaker who masterminded the impeachment effort against Rousseff, lost his post seven days ago over his own charges in the Petrobras probe. In his request that Cunha be removed from office, Brazil’s Attorney General Rodrigo Janot said the suspended congressman used his position to “destroy evidence, pressure witnesses, intimidate victims and obstruct the investigations at any cost.”

And Senate leader Renan Calheiros, who presided over this morning’s vote, stands accused of tax evasion, taking bribes connected to the Petrobras scandal and letting a lobbyist cover his alimony payments for an illegitimate child, The New York Times reports.

“Rousseff is not a bad person, and has revealed her virtues,” Winter said. “She was honest, to a point. She allowed the investigations into Petrobras to continue, when she had multiple chances to halt them. But in the end, it came down to a matter of measuring her virtues against her flaws.”

Brazil Senate to Vote on Rousseff Impeachment

Top Story — Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff faces an impeachment vote in the Senate today that will likely see her removed from power. The vote will mark a watershed moment in Brazilian politics after months of political wheeler-dealing, name-calling and last-minute legal maneuvers by both the president’s supporters and opponents.

Wednesday’s vote will follow a marathon session in the Senate and is expected to last into the early hours of Thursday. If 41 out of 81 Senators vote to impeach her, Rousseff will be removed from office for up to 180 days to face trial. Vice President Michel Temer would then become interim president.

Rousseff stands accused of cooking the government’s books to hide a budget deficit ahead of her 2014 re-election. The president has acknowledged that she engaged in the act known as fiscal backpedalling, but says she did no different than her predecessors, and that the charges against her do not amount to an impeachable “crime of responsibility.” Her opponents have argued that no past president engaged in backpedalling on this scale and that the move caused confidence in Brazil’s financial markets to erode.

The president does not face charges stemming from the wider Petrobras probe that has engulfed some of Brazil’s top industrialists, as well as key members of the Workers’ Party and the opposition, including Vice President Temer and Senate leader Renan Calheiros.

Nonetheless, Brazilians have increasingly held Rousseff responsible for an economic downturn that landed the country in the worst recession since the 1930s. An April poll by the Datafolha institute found that 63 percent of Brazilians considered her government “bad” or “terrible.”

Headlines from the Western Hemisphere

North America

The Associated Press reveals that the Mexican authorities in charge of the investigation into the 43 Ayotzinapa students who were disappeared in September of 2014 allegedly used torture to extract information and gain false confessions from gang member suspects — generating a narrative that was ruled impossible by subsequent independent investigations.

A Guardian report profiles traditional Mexican mezcal distillers as they fight against new regulations they claim attempt to control small-scale outfits to the benefit of larger, more profitable companies.

Caribbean

Russia celebrated the Cuban Five, five Cuban nationals recently released from U.S. prison after being convicted of spying on Floridian anti-Castro groups during the Cold War, calling them heroes “of fortitude and resistance” during ceremonies in Moscow on Tuesday.

Central America

The Mossack Fonseca law firm at the center of the Panama Papers leak has threatened to file a lawsuit against the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists responsible for organizing and publishing the company’s internal documents, which the firm claims were acquired by computer hackers.

The Guatemalan legislature voted to strip a supreme court justice of immunity on Tuesday following the revelation that he received an armored Range Rover in exchange for ruling that a port company was exempt from paying construction fees.

Andes

The Colombian government expects to reach a peace agreement with FARC rebels “in the very near future,” said President Juan Manuel Santos on Wednesday, some six weeks after missing the initial March deadline for concluding negotiations.

The Mexican Telecom company America Movil has announced that its subsidiaries will be buying Olo del Peru S.A.C. and TVS Wireless S.A.C., two of the largest telecommunications operators in Peru.

Southern Cone

As Brazil’s political crisis sharpens, the Associated Press profiles the two men set to potentially take over for President Dilma Rousseff if she’s impeached, Vice President Michel Temer and Senate leader Renan Calheiros, have both been facing corruption charges of their own.

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