10 Impeached Heads of State Who Were Ousted from Office

POLITICS & POLICY

Although three U.S. presidents have been formally impeached (Andrew Jackson, Bill Clinton, and Donald Trump), none have been ousted from office. Richard Nixon resigned after impeachment inquiries began in the House of Representatives. The same cannot be said of the other heads of state on this list, all of whom were thrown out of office following their impeachments for scandals, leaking classified information, attempting to dissolve their nations’ legislatures or other immoral or criminal actions. The ejection of these leaders from office did not always sit well with their nation’s citizens or with the heads of other governments.

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10 Pedro Castillo

The Peruvian Congress took exception to President Pedro Castillo’s announcement that he was dissolving the nation’s legislature in favor of “an exceptional emergency government.” Instead, the legislators called an emergency meeting to impeach him for rebellion after he was arrested while making his way to the Mexican embassy in Lima. On December 7, 2022, Vice President Dina Boluarte was sworn in as president, announcing that she would rule until July 2026, when Castillo’s term of office was due to expire.

Castillo’s attempt to disband Congress occurred hours before it was to initiate impeachment proceedings against him for the third time since he entered office in July 2021. Castillo faced three impeachment attempts during his tenure, reflecting a turbulent political landscape and deep-seated divisions within the country. The impeachment proceedings were largely driven by political opposition and allegations of misconduct.

One key factor in Castillo’s impeachments was his perceived mishandling of economic policies, which generated controversy and led to accusations of incompetence. Additionally, his government faced allegations of corruption, further eroding public trust and fueling calls for impeachment. Moreover, Castillo’s radical proposals and perceived threats to democratic institutions stirred widespread unrest and prompted opposition parties to push for his removal from office. The lack of consensus and unity among political factions exacerbated the situation, contributing to the repeated impeachment attempts.

Furthermore, Castillo’s confrontational approach to governance and his inability to build bridges with opposition leaders hindered efforts to stabilize the political climate and address the country’s pressing challenges. The third time was the charm for Castillo’s political opponents, and the president was ousted from office.[1]

9 Dilma Rousseff

On August 31, 2016, Dilma Rousseff, Brazil’s first female president, lost her office after she was impeached by a 61 to 20 vote margin and was replaced by Michel Temer, but she was not barred from public office for eight years. Rousseff had become unpopular due, in part, to a decline in the nation’s economy and “a massive bribery scandal.”

Accusations against Rousseff centered on the use of accounting tricks to mask the extent of the budget deficit, which opponents argued violated fiscal responsibility laws. These actions sparked widespread public outrage and political turmoil, culminating in a lengthy impeachment process that divided the nation.

Rousseff’s supporters viewed the impeachment as a politically motivated attempt to remove her from power, citing the lack of concrete evidence of criminal wrongdoing. They argued that her removal undermined democratic principles and constituted a coup d’état.

However, her detractors contended that Rousseff’s actions constituted an impeachable offense, asserting that she had violated the constitution and betrayed the trust of the Brazilian people.

Ultimately, Rousseff was impeached by the Brazilian Congress in August 2016, leading to her removal from office and the ascension of her vice president, Michel Temer, to the presidency. The impeachment of Dilma Rousseff underscored the deep political polarization and institutional challenges facing Brazil, leaving a lasting impact on the country’s political landscape.[2]

8 Park Geun-hye

On December 9, 2016, the South Korean legislature impeached President Park Geun-hye, whose powers were suspended until the nation’s constitutional court determined whether to oust her from office. Accusations against her included influence-peddling, bribery, and abuse of power involving her close confidante Choi Soon-sil. Millions took to the streets in protest, demanding her resignation.

The scandal rocked South Korean society, revealing the deep-seated collusion between political and corporate elites. Park’s impeachment was a pivotal moment in the country’s democracy, demonstrating the public’s intolerance for corruption and abuse of power.

Park was ousted and sentenced to prison, but after she had served five years of her 22-year sentence, her successor, President Moon Jae-in, pardoned her due to her “deteriorating health,” despite the fact that a poll found that 48% of its respondents were against the action.[3]

7 Fernando Lugo

On June 22, 2012, Paraguay’s President Fernando Lugo was removed from office a year before the expiration of his five-year term in what, he claimed, was a “parliamentary coup.” The impeachment proceedings stemmed from a deadly clash between police and landless farmers in Curuguaty, which left 17 people dead.

Accusations against Lugo included mishandling the incident and failing to maintain public order, leading to calls for his removal from office. Critics accused him of neglecting his duties and exacerbating the situation through his handling of land reform policies. The impeachment process was widely criticized as rushed and lacking due process, with Lugo’s supporters arguing that the impeachment was politically motivated and aimed at removing him from power.

Despite protests and condemnation from regional organizations, the Paraguayan Senate voted to impeach Lugo, leading to his swift ousting from the presidency. Leaders in other Latin American nations agreed with Lugo that his removal constituted “a de facto coup” and announced actions that they would take, including Paraguay’s “expulsion from regional groups,” Argentina’s recall of their ambassador to Paraguay, and Cuba’s refusal to recognize Lugo’s replacement, President Federico Franco.[4]

6 Rolandas Paksas

Abuse of his office led to the downfall of “scandal-ridden” Lithuanian President Rolandas Paksas on April 6, 2004, after the nation’s parliament voted, by secret ballot, to oust the nation’s chief executive. The impeachment stemmed from accusations of violating the constitution and breaching his presidential oath.

Allegations against Paksas included granting Lithuanian citizenship to a Russian businessman—Yuri Borisov—with alleged ties to organized crime, divulging state secrets, and using his office for financial gain. These actions raised concerns about national security and prompted calls for his removal from office.

The impeachment process was marked by political turmoil and intense public scrutiny, reflecting the gravity of the charges against Paksas. Despite his denials of wrongdoing, the Lithuanian Parliament voted overwhelmingly in favor of impeachment. As a result, Paksas was removed from office and barred from holding public office for five years.

Paksas admitted to having made “a few mistakes,” but the majority of the legislators apparently thought that the president’s actions constituted more than merely “a few mistakes.”[5]

5 Abdurrahman Wahid

As reported from Jakarta, Amien Rais, the speaker of the People’s Consultative Assembly, announced that Indonesia’s President Abdurrahman Wahid’s impeachment would lead to his dismissal and Vice President Megawati Sukarnoputri’s assumption of the presidency. The impeachment process was triggered by allegations of incompetence, corruption, and nepotism.

Wahid’s presidency was marred by political and economic instability, as well as ethnic and religious tensions. His unorthodox leadership style and erratic behavior alienated many within the political establishment, leading to calls for his removal from office. The impeachment proceedings were initiated by the Indonesian Assembly, which accused Wahid of financial mismanagement and obstructing corruption investigations. Despite protests and demonstrations in support of Wahid, the Assembly voted to impeach him.

The Assembly was apparently outraged by Wahid’s last-ditch attempt to cling to power by declaring “a state of emergency [and ordering] the military and police to halt impeachment proceedings against him.” His instruction backfired spectacularly since the military refused to obey. Even so, Wahid doubled down, warning that if he were forced to resign, several provinces would break away from Indonesia.

Although legislators proved no wrongdoing on Wahid’s part, they maintained that Wahid had been “erratic” in his decision-making and had failed to end Indonesia’s economic crisis.[6]

4 Carlos Andrés Pérez

For Venezuela’s President Carlos Andrés Pérez, good government was indicated by a country’s economic standing and its international status. His nationalization of the country’s substantial petroleum supplies enabled him to pressure the United States to surrender control of the Panama Canal and to lobby for an increase in OPEC’s prominence.

During his first term as president (1974–1979), he was relatively popular as an apparent man of the people. However, several of his actions during his second term (1989–1993) soured many citizens on his leadership. As a Time report mentions, his seemingly hypocritical acceptance of International Monetary Fund (IMF) funds contradicted his campaign statements, in which he’d referred to the IMF as “a neutron bomb that killed people and left buildings standing.”

Pérez’s administration was marred by widespread protests and social unrest, fueled by economic hardship and austerity measures imposed in response to Venezuela’s mounting debt crisis. The Caracazo riots of 1989, sparked by a sudden increase in fuel prices, left hundreds dead and further eroded public trust in Pérez’s government.

Accusations of corruption against Pérez centered on the misappropriation of funds from a secret government account, known as the “discretionary fund,” which he allegedly used for personal gain and to finance political activities. The scandal led to widespread outrage and demands for Pérez’s resignation or impeachment.

In May 1993, the Venezuelan Congress impeached Pérez on charges of embezzlement and misuse of public funds. He was removed from office and subsequently barred from holding public office for 10 years. Ousted from office in August 1993, the nations’ Congress having elected Ramon José Velasquez as interim president, Pérez was held under house arrest for two years before dying “in exile in a Miami hospital.”[7]

3 Café Filho

Brazilian politics has frequently been beset by political intrigues, coups d’état, and impeachments. Partly as a result of such actions, between January 31, 1951, and January 31, 1961, there were five presidents of Brazil: Getúlio Vargas, Café Filho, Carlos Luz, Nereu Ramos, and Juscelino Kubitschek.

Café Filho assumed the presidency upon the death of Brazil’s President Getúlio Vargas in 1954. The country’s Congress, pressured by the military, then impeached Filho, claiming that he was unable to perform his duties.

In support of Filho’s removal, opposition party leader Carlos Lacerda published a forged letter in his newspaper, A Tribuna do Povo. The letter connected João Goulart, then a member of the Chamber of Deputies, to the plans of Argentine President Perón and Juscelino Kubitschek “to clandestinely import weapons from Argentina [with which to arm] workers’ groups.”

Although an investigation led by the Minister of War, General Henrique Lott, proved that the letter was false, General Bizarria Mamede spoke against the elected officials, prompting Lott to seek Filho’s permission to reprimand Mamede. However, Filho was removed from the presidency after suffering a cardiovascular attack, and Carlos Luz, the Chamber of Deputies president, took Filho’s place. Luz refused to grant Lott permission, at which point Lott resigned from the army.

Realizing that his resignation could facilitate a coup d’état, preventing Kubitschek from taking office, Lott organized a counter-coup that, on March 11, 1955, removed Carlos Luz from the presidency and guaranteed the inauguration of the elected candidates. This allowed Kubitschek to assume office as the nation’s president following Nereu Ramos’s 81-day term as acting president.[8]

2 Martín Vizcarra

Allegations of corruption, charges of accepting bribes, criticism of his handling—or mishandling—of the COVID-19 pandemic: true or not, accurate or not, these charges were the basis of the November 2020 decision by Peru’s Congress to oust President Martin Vizcarra. Rather than going to court to challenge the high court’s decision, Vizcarra decided to accept the Senate’s decision to remove him from office. However, he made it clear that he was doing so with a “clear conscience.”

Many did not agree with the legislators’ decision, characterizing the president’s removal as “a coup.” Columnist and political pundit Augusto Alvarez Rodrich wrote, “Those who will be most harmed by this coup will be the citizens.” The president had been expected to weather the impeachment process, as he had an earlier impeachment effort, and angry citizens took to the streets to express their anger at the successful impeachment’s outcome.[9]

1 Alberto Fujimori

By all accounts but his own, Peru’s President Alberto Fujimori left a lot to be desired, morally, politically, and otherwise. He was such a scoundrel that, when he tried to quit office, his resignation was refused, the nation’s legislators preferring to impeach him instead due to his moral unfitness to govern. As the Los Angeles Times states, “The ouster was the political equivalent of an indictment and conviction” that had lawmakers cheering and singing, ‘the dictatorship has fallen.’”

Fujimori’s administration was characterized by authoritarian tendencies and a controversial approach to governance. The impeachment proceedings against Fujimori were initiated by the Peruvian Congress following the release of videotapes implicating his government in widespread corruption. Additionally, Fujimori faced accusations of electoral fraud and human rights violations, particularly related to his government’s counterinsurgency campaign against the Shining Path guerrilla group.

One of the most notorious cases involving Fujimori’s human rights abuses was the Barrios Altos massacre in 1991, where a paramilitary death squad killed 15 people, including a child, in Lima. Another significant incident was the La Cantuta massacre in 1992, where nine university students and a professor were abducted and murdered by a military death squad.

Fujimori’s government was also accused of orchestrating forced disappearances, extrajudicial killings, and torture as part of its counterinsurgency efforts. Human rights organizations and international observers condemned these actions, calling for accountability and justice.

He was sentenced to prison, pardoned, remained imprisoned after the pardon was annulled, and received a second pardon, which was “overturned.” He was finally released on humanitarian grounds, at age 85, due to serious health problems and his advanced age. He had been serving a 25-year prison sentence for the slayings of 25 Peruvians by death squads in the 1990s.[10]

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