Dilma Rousseff.jpg
Photograph: Photo by Senado Federal, used under CC BY

A defiant Dilma Rousseff called the Senate vote to suspend her as president of Brazil "a coup" by political opponents and vowed to continue to fight her removal from office.

"When an elected president is suspended because of a crime I haven't committed, the name we give it is not impeachment, but a coup," said Rousseff, flanked by supporters, in an address to the nation on Thursday.

"They tried to take by force what they didn't get in votes," she said, slamming the impeachment process as "a judicial farce, a political farce."

Senators voted overwhelmingly in favour of suspending Rousseff from her duties for 180 days and subjecting her to an impeachment trial on charges of budget irregularities.

The 55-22 vote came after a marathon 20-hour debate at the National Congress in the capital, Brasilia.

During the next six months, the Senate will investigate the allegations against her and then conduct another vote.

Impeachment appears likely as a two-thirds majority is needed in the vote to permanently remove her from office. That number was exceeded in the vote on Thursday, even though a simple majority of Senators was all that was required to suspend her.

Rousseff is accused of tampering with figures to disguise the size of Brazil's budget deficit during her 2014 re-election campaign. She has denied any wrongdoing.

Her suspension ends 13 years of rule by the leftist Workers' Party, which has become increasingly unpopular for its handling of the battered economy and its connection to a massive corruption scandal involving the state-run oil company, Petrobras.

Vice President Michel Temer, of the centrist Brazilian Democratic Movement (PMDB), immediately took over as interim president.

Temer has been Rousseff's deputy since she took office in 2011, becoming the first woman to hold the position of president.

But their relationship has deteriorated, with Rousseff now referring to him as a "traitor," and the PMDB withdrawing from the coalition government last month.

Brazil was one of the world's fastest-growing economies until a few years ago, but is now in the midst of one its worst recessions in decades. Some 11 million Brazilians cannot find a job.

Temer, who is perceived as more market-friendly, has called for investor calm. He says he will push for more privatizations, reduce the number of public employees and get the budget deficit under control.

He said he wants to slim down the number of cabinet positions, which are seen as a breeding ground for corruption, and make appointments from all political parties except Rousseff's Workers' Party.

Bitter political rival Eduardo Cunha, who was the president of Brazil's lower house, launched the process to impeach Rousseff in December. The chamber voted in favour of her impeachment in April, sending the issue to the Senate upper chamber.

Cunha was suspended last week on allegations he was obstructing a corruption investigation against himself.

In a last-ditch effort to save her presidency, Rousseff appealed to the Supreme Court this week to block the Senate vote, arguing that Cunha had abused his position of power to seek "revenge."

The court rejected her appeal.

Mass street protests broke out in the country last year, reflecting the anger at the government's inability to improve economic conditions and the corruption scandals that have left around 60 per cent of the 594 members in the National Congress under investigation.

The biggest of all the scandals involves state-run Petrobras. Bribes totaling billions of dollars are alleged to have been paid in the awarding of dozens of contracts by the oil giant to construction companies. Some of the money was then shared with politicians from several political parties.

Rousseff was chairwoman of the Petrobras board between 2003 and 2010, when the kickback schemes were said to have taken place.

She denies having had any knowledge of wrongdoing and has not been charged in the case. She has been mired in the scandal, however, which has helped to drive her popularity rating down to around its current 14 per cent.

"Destiny has always thrown several challenges at me. Great challenges. Some of them seemed unbearable. However I was able to overcome them," she said in her address.

She ended by calling on Brazilians "to say no to the coup."

A long-time left-wing activist who trained as a guerrilla in her youth in order to fight the military dictatorship, Rousseff was elected president in 2010 and was narrowly re-elected to another four-year term in 2014.

In August, hundreds of thousands of athletes, spectators and media will descend on Brazil for the Olympics, a high-profile showcase for the country.

Rousseff ignited the Olympic flame in Brazil's capital last week, kicking off a cross-country torch relay to build enthusiasm for the games.

Intended to be a highlight of her presidency, Rousseff will now watch the Olympics from the sidelines. Temer will open the games on August 5.

The last time Brazil's Senate pressed impeachment proceedings against a president was in 1992. Fernando Affonso Collor de Mello resigned before the trial got under way. He now serves as a senator.

Latest news

Greece's creditors want sweeping reforms before next bailout payment

Greece must make sweeping reforms to its labour market, pension system and collective bargaining agreements in order to receive its next vital bailout payment, the country's European creditors said Monday.

President wants to recall "politically appointed ambassadors", can't do it without gov't

President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic said that many politically appointed Croatian ambassadors were not carrying out state policies but that she could not replace them without the government to appoint career diplomats who would fight for Croatia's interests.

Izetbegovic hopes ICJ will confirm Serbia's responsibility for genocide

The Bosniak member of the tripartite presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bakir Izetbegovic, on Monday rejected criticism stirred up by the announcement that the International Court of Justice (ICJ) would be requested to review its judgement made after Bosnia sued Serbia for genocide.

British lawmakers locked in heated debate over Trump's state visit

Allowing US President Donald Trump to visit Britain would be akin to "pimping out the Queen," one British lawmaker said Monday during a heated debate in British parliament over two petitions concerning the US leader's future state visit.

Vitaly Churkin, Russia's sharp-tongued ambassador to the UN, dies

Russia's long-time ambassador to the United Nations, Vitaly Churkin, died in New York on Monday, following a career that spanned four decades and saw Russia emerge from the Soviet Union and experience many turbulent events in its relations with the West.

French police raid National Front over European Parliament payments

France's far-right National Front Monday said that investigators had searched its offices in relation to allegations that it misused European Parliament funds.

Unhappy Presidents' Day: Trump still manoeuvring after Sweden comment

Donald Trump used his first Presidents' Day in office to continue trying to talk his way out of comments implying a terrorist attack in Sweden that never happened.

Croatia supports Kosovo's territorial integrity - Grabar-Kitarovic

Croatia's President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic on Monday expressed the support to Kosovo's territorial integrity and Euro-Atlantic aspirations during her talks with the visiting Kosovo Foreign Minister Enver Hoxhaj.

Petrov rules out early parliamentary election

Parliament Speaker and Bridge party leader Bozo Petrov on Monday dismissed speculation about a reshuffle of the parliamentary majority, saying an early election was likelier, but that right now he did not see "such a scenario."

First local elections in 20 years to be held in Nepal on May 14

Nepal's government announced the dates for forthcoming local elections on Monday, nearly 20 years after polls were last held for municipalities and village councils in the country.

US Defence Secretary: We are not in Iraq to seize Iraqi oil

US Defence Secretary Jim Mattis said on Monday that the United States does not intend to seize Iraqi oil, in reference to comments made by President Donald Trump last month.

Bryan Adams to play Zagreb

Canadian rock star Bryan Adams, who has sold more than 100 million albums in his 40-year-long career, will perform in Zagreb on November 9, according to his website and Facebook account.