Brasilia | Brazil’s suspended president proclaimed her innocence, branding her vice president a “usurper” and warning senators that history would judge them harshly if they ousted a democratically elected leader on false charges.
Dilma Rousseff’s much anticipated speech to the lawmakers who will decide this week whether to permanently remove her from office was characterized by the same defiance she has shown throughout an impeachment process that has divided Latin America’s most populous nation.
“I know I will be judged, but my conscience is clear. I did not commit a crime,” Rousseff told senators yesterday, who listened intently in contrast to the chamber’s usual raucousness.
In the middle of her second term, the left-leaning leader has been accused of breaking fiscal rules to hide problems in the federal budget. She has denied any wrongdoing, accusing her opponents of a “coup d’Ã©tat.”
Rousseff reminded those in attendance that she was re-elected in 2014 by more than 54 million votes, asserting that at every moment since she has followed the constitution and sought to do what was best for the country.
Brazil’s first female president is a former guerrilla fighter who was jailed and tortured during the country’s dictatorship, and Rousseff drew a connection between her past and the situation today.
“I can’t help but taste the bitterness of injustice,” she said of the process that will decide not only her fate but the nation’s political future.
During her 30-minite speech, Rousseff argued that in early 2015 opposition lawmakers began creating a climate of instability by refusing to negotiate and throwing what she called “fiscal bombs” in the face of declining revenues.
She said the impeachment process had exacerbated the recession in Latin America’s largest economy, placing the blame on the opposition, which has argued that she has to be removed for the financial climate to improve.
Rousseff blasted interim President Michel Temer as a “usurper.” Her vice president turned arch-enemy, Temer took over when the Senate voted in May to impeach and suspend Rousseff for up to 180 days while a trial was prepared. He will serve out Rousseff’s term if she is removed.
Referring to Temer, Rousseff said Brazilians would never have elected a man who named a Cabinet of all white men in a country that is more than 50 per cent non-white.
The Cabinet that Temer put in place in May has been roundly criticized for its lack of diversity, and three of his ministers were forced to step down within a month of taking office because of corruption allegations.