The long awaited trial of Brazil’s suspended President Dilma Rousseff began in the Senate today.
She is not expected to face her inquisitors until Monday.
The trial climaxed a lengthy impeachment process that has paralyzed the politics of the country.
Political pundits believe the trial will culminate in Rousseff’s removal from office next week.
Supreme Court Chief Justice Ricardo Lewandowski reminded Senators that they must act as judges and put aside their political views.
Thursday’s session will hear witnesses for and against Rousseff, Brazil’s first female president, who is charged with breaking budget laws.
The leftist leader, whose popularity has been hammered by a deep recession and massive corruption scandal since she won reelection in 2014, will appear before the 81 senators on Monday to defend herself, but her opponents are confident they have more than the 54 votes needed to convict her.
Authorities prepared barriers to contain demonstrations outside Brazil’s modernistic Congress building, but few Rousseff supporters have turned out, pointing to the isolation of the impeached president.
“Every one of you should vote as an individual and not according to party,” Lewandowski told senators in his opening remarks.
Some two hours later, however, Lewandowski had to suspend the session briefly when a verbal fight broke out between senators.
If the final vote, which is expected late Tuesday or in the early hours of Wednesday, goes against Rousseff it would confirm her vice president, Michel Temer, as Brazil’s new leader for the rest of her four-year term through 2018, ending 13 years of left-wing Workers Party rule.
A survey published by O Globo newspaper on Thursday showed that 52 senators were committed to voting to dismiss Rousseff, with only 19 supporting her and 10 undecided or not polled.
Rousseff, a former leftist guerrilla, is charged with spending without Congressional approval and manipulating government accounts to mask the extent of the deficit in the run-up to her 2014 re-election.
Temer’s right-leaning government held last-minute talks with senators and political parties to shore up votes against Rousseff, who has denied any wrongdoing and described efforts to oust her as a “coup.” She has refused to resign and said such accounting practices were also commonly used by previous governments.
However, the trial has become a test of support for Rousseff amid the deepest recession since the Great Depression and a massive kickback scandal surrounding state-led oil company Petrobras that has implicated dozens of politicians from her coalition, including Temer’s own party.