Brazil’s Rousseff fights for survival at trial

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Brazil’s suspended President Dilma Rousseff has defended her record during her impeachment trial in the Senate.

She is accused of illegally manipulating the budget to hide a growing deficit.

Former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva watched on as Ms Rousseff spoke (AFP photo)
Former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva watched on as Ms Rousseff spoke (AFP photo)

Ms Rousseff said her conscience was “absolutely clean” and that she had not committed any crime.

Senators are due to vote later this week on whether to remove her from office for good or whether to reinstate her.

Ms Rousseff is accused of breaking fiscal laws.

She is suspected of moving funds between government budgets, which is illegal under Brazilian law.

Her critics say she was trying to plug deficit holes in popular social programmes to boost her chances of being re-elected for a second term in October 2014.

‘Fighting on’

Ms Rousseff began her defence by reminding senators that she had been re-elected by more than 54 million voters.

She said she had always honoured and upheld the Constitution.

She also reminded senators of her past as a resistance fighter who opposed military rule.

She said that even when she was tortured she continued to fight.

Her fight, she said, had been for a more equal society and that the achievements of her government in that field were now “at risk”.

She added that she was determined to continue her fight against the attacks against her, which she said amounted to a “coup”.

Ms Rousseff said she had been “unjustly accused” of crimes she said she had not committed. “I can’t help but taste the bitterness of injustice,” she said.

‘Vote for democracy!’

She also warned of the dangers she said the interim government of acting President Michel Temer posed.

Ms Rousseff said Mr Temer’s administration would limit public spending and act in the interest of a small economic elite.

“The future of Brazil is at stake,” she said.

She ended her defence by again talking about her time in captivity, briefly choking with emotion when she mentioned the torture she had endured “for days on end”.

She thanked those senators who had fought for her to be cleared of the charges before asking those who were opposed to her to “vote against the impeachment, vote for democracy!”.

Senators from her Workers’ Party stood up and applauded once she had finished, while her opponents sat in their seats stony-faced.

After giving her defence, senators started to question her.

The impeachment vote is scheduled for Tuesday but analysts say it could slip into Wednesday.

For her to be removed from the presidency permanently, 54 of the 81 senators would have to vote for her impeachment.

Brazilian daily Folha de Sao Paulo says it has spoken to all the senators ahead of the vote and that 52 have so far declared themselves in favour of the impeachment.

Eighteen told the newspaper they were opposed to the impeachment and 11 either did not say which way they would vote or were undecided.

Divided opinion

If Ms Rousseff, 68, is impeached, acting President Michel Temer will serve out her term, which ends in December 2018.

Mr Temer, who was Ms Rousseff’s vice-president, assumed the role of acting president in May when Ms Rousseff was suspended from office pending the impeachment trial.

 

 

 

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