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Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff at a launch ceremony of Agricultural and Livestock Plan for 2016/2017, in Brasilia May 4, 2016.


Stephanie Nolen, The Globe and Mail's Latin America Bureau Chief, has been covering the political crisis and corruption scandal since they began more than a year ago. Follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

What just happened in Brazil's Congress?

After more than 20 hours of debate, Senators voted 55 to 22 in favour of opening a trial of president Dilma Rousseff, forcing her to step aside for up to 180 days.

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What does she face impeachment for?

In Brazil, it's called pedaladas fiscais, borrowing a term from soccer – it translates as financial juggling, essentially. The allegation is that Ms. Rousseff borrowed funds from state banks to paper over deficits in the federal budget and mask the true state of the economy, in violation of fiscal accountability laws.

Did she do it?

By her own admission, she did – her defense is that the borrowing is a common practice, one used by every government before hers, and not a "crime of responsibility", which is what is required for impeachment. There is no possibility of criminal charges for this offense.

Wait, isn't this whole thing about corruption?

Well, yes and no. There is a massive corruption scandal still unfolding in Brazil, commonly known by its police code name Lava Jato, or Car Wash. Many senior figures in Ms. Rousseff's government have been charged or are under investigation (as are politicians from almost every other party). She faces no allegations of personal enrichment. However many Brazilians blame her for the corruption (68 per cent said in a recent poll that she should be impeached) and not everyone is aware that her ouster is not, technically, related to Lava Jato. The man who orchestrated the impeachment case is the former lower house speaker, Eduardo Cunha – he faces charges of funnelling millions of dollars in bribes to a Swiss bank account, and Ms. Rousseff's supporters say he launched a bid to drive her out when she refused to shield him from prosecution.

So now what?

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Ms. Rousseff will be formally replaced on Thursday morning by Vice President Michel Temer, who has already lined up a cabinet with a new pro-market economic agenda. She has said she intends to continue to fight the impeachment; she now has 20 days to present a new defense. But because the vote early Thursday passed by such a wide margin, it's unlikely she can stave off the process. She continues to occupy the presidential residence, but not the offices. She will be paid half her salary until the trial is concluded.

So who's Michel Temer?

He's a 75-year-old veteran member of the lower house of Congress in his second term as Vice President under Ms. Rousseff. He was largely unknown to Brazilians until he suddenly emerged as gunning for her job a few months ago. Mr. Temer is the child of Lebanese immigrants, a lawyer by training, and writes poetry for pleasure. He is married to a former beauty queen 42 years his junior, who has his name tattooed on her neck. Last week, a court ruled that he violated a campaign spending law and so he is now barred from running for office for eight years.

Could Mr. Temer also face impeachment? And then what?

He could. There is an impeachment case open against him in the lower house, and the Supreme Court has ordered the house to pursue it. But practically speaking, it's unlikely the house will let that happen any time soon, especially if Mr. Temer is able to build popular support for his new government. Technically if he were impeached he would be replaced by acting lower house speaker Waldir Maranhao, but his party is trying to oust him. So, unclear, is the short answer.

What does this mean for the Summer Olympics?

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Very little. Venues in Rio are 98 per cent ready, and other major problems (such as the extreme pollution in water bodies where athletes will compete) aren't going to be fixed by August regardless of who is president. The larger concern for the Olympics is the empty financial coffers of the state of Rio de Janeiro, which has been badly hit by the economic crisis. That means cut backs in everything from policing to hospitals to marketing.

How are the markets reacting?

Up modestly in the first hour of trading.

How are Brazilians reacting?

The country is deeply polarized over this impeachment, and it shows in the reactions. Supporters of the impeachment set off fireworks and cheered on their balconies when television carried the Senate vote live in the early morning. Supporters of Ms. Rousseff are vowing widespread protests against what they are calling a "coup."

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