A Brazilian Senate committee voted to recommend starting an impeachment trial against President Dilma Rousseff, who now faces being suspended from office in less than a week.
The special committee’s decision was non-binding but marked the last formal stage before the full Senate votes Wednesday on whether to put the leftist leader on trial.
With the Senate considered almost certain to open the trial next week, Rousseff is preparing to step aside for up to six months while the 81 senators decide her fate, plunging Brazil into ever deeper political infighting.
As soon as Rousseff is suspended Vice President Michel Temer would become interim president.
At the end of the trial, which could take months, a two thirds majority would be needed to remove Rousseff from office.
The impeachment is based on accusations that Rousseff made illegal accounting maneuvers to mask the depth of Brazil’s economic troubles during her tight 2014 reelection victory.
The country’s first female president says the charges are trumped up to turn the impeachment process into a coup d’etat and that she will not give in.
Dilma would be allowed to remain in her presidential residence but will lose access to the executive offices and will be on half pay. There are still questions over her exact status, including whether she will be able to use Air Force planes for travel.
While Rousseff fights for her political survival, both her closest allies and some of her most bitter enemies are being sucked into an ever deepening corruption scandal centered on state oil company Petrobras.
Lawmaker Eduardo Cunha, was suspended by the Supreme Court from his post as speaker of the lower house on grounds that he was obstructing a Petrobras-related corruption probe against him.
Cunha was one of Brazil’s most powerful political operators and allied to Temer. His probable replacement in the speaker’s post is another lawmaker accused of participating in the Petrobras embezzlement ring.
Meanwhile, the government and Congress have all but come to a standstill, with measures to try to drag the economy out of its worst recession in decades abandoned.
The economy shrank 3.8 percent last year and is forecast to wither away at the same rate this year before flattening out with zero growth in 2017. That’s a huge drop from the 7.5 percent growth Rousseff inherited when she first took office in 2010, although a big reason for the decline was the end of high commodity prices around the world.