Brasilia: Brazil's Senate voted early on Wednesday to hold an impeachment trial for the nation's suspended president Dilma Rousseff, a process that could see her permanently removed from office.
The vote in favour of trying Rousseff, who was suspended from the presidency in May, was 59 in favour, 21 against.
The Senate suspended Rousseff, the South American nation's first female president, on May 12 over accusations of illegal accounting practices and fiddling the budget to mask a slumping economy.
Rousseff, 68, has likened the impeachment drive to a putsch by her political enemies.
The impeachment trial is set to open around August 25, four days after the Olympics closing ceremony, and is expected to last five days, concluding with a judgment vote.
The timing of the nation's ongoing political crisis could hardly be more awkward for Brazil, which was meant to be showcasing its burgeoning economic clout and political stability with South America's first Olympics.
At the start of the marathon Senate session, which got under way on Tuesday, Supreme Court President Ricardo Lewandowski reminded senators that they were about to "exercise one of the most serious tasks under the constitution."
Rousseff's opponents had no trouble attaining a simple majority of the 81 Senate votes to begin steps to end her scandal-plagued presidency.
"What we are talking about today is defending the constitution and democracy itself. Those who commit crimes must be held responsible for them," said Senator Aecio Neves, one of Rousseff's most fervent opponents rivals.
"The conditions are firmly in place for removing Dilma Rousseff," he said.
About 250 of Rousseff's supporters demonstrated in central Sao Paulo, while in the Senate chamber in Brasilia her allies defended her.
"Today is not a good day for our democracy," said one, Senator Paulo Rocha. Against her, he said, "there is a political alliance that smells of a coup."
Impeachment would not only seal Rousseff's political fate, but would bring an end to 13 years of leftist rule in Brazil: Her political mentor, President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva preceded her in office. But in recent months, Lula, as he is called, has encountered political problems of his own.
Officials recently announced that the 70-year old leftist leader will be put on trial for allegedly trying to obstruct a corruption probe at Petrobras, the national oil concern.
Since Rousseff's suspension, her deeply unpopular vice president Michel Temer has served as Brazil's interim leader, as the nation struggles to emerge from its worst recession in decades....