Brazil’s suspended president Dilma Rousseff has
appeared before the Senate to testify at her
denying allegations of breaking
budget rules and saying the future of the country
was at stake.
“My government made mistakes, but never
betrayed voters,” she said on Monday. “I did not
commit the crimes that I am accused of in an
arbitrary and unjust manner.”
Rousseff is accused of having taken illegal state
loans to patch budget holes.
The suspended president reiterated her claim that
the trial was a “coup d’etat” aimed at removing her
from office and destroying her Workers’ Party.
“There is no justification for removing me from
power,” she said.
“I am innocent, I am an honest person and I have
never committed a crime.”
She later made a reference her imprisonment and
torture by the military dictatorship in the 1970s for
belonging to a far-left group.
“I was very strong then, and at almost 70, I am
still strong now,” Rousseff said.
She explained that she previously refused to
resign, because she was committed to democracy
and the rule of law.
“This has been a very dramatic beginning to the
trial as many Brazilians expected,” said Al
Jazeera’s Lucia Newman, reporting from the capital
“But Rousseff did not say one thing that everyone
was expecting to hear; she did not say, what
would have happened, what would be different, if
she were to be reinstated.”
Earlier on Monday, Rousseff, 68, was greeted by
cheering supporters as she arrived in the Senate to
testify for the first time in her defence, just hours
before senators were to start voting on her fate.
“Dilma, warrior of the Brazilian homeland,” the
crowd of supporters shouted.
Momentum to push her out is also fuelled by deep
anger at Brazil’s historic recession, political
paralysis and a vast corruption scandal centred on
state oil giant Petrobras.
Rousseff came to the senate accompanied by
heavyweight allies, including her presidential
predecessor Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, and a dozen
former cabinet members.
A small crowd of loyalists gathered from early
morning outside the Senate and supporters
shouted “Dilma come back!” from cars as they
drove past the building’s entrance.
Closing arguments will begin after her testimony
on Monday, followed by voting, possibly extending
Opponents say they will easily reach the needed
two-thirds majority, 54 of 81 senators, to remove
her from office.
In that case, Rousseff’s former vice president
turned political enemy, Michel Temer, will be
confirmed as president until elections in 2018.
Temer, from the centre-right PMDB party, has
already been acting president since May.
He is hardly more popular than Rousseff,
according to opinion polls.
Temer faces harsh questioning over his legitimacy
as an unelected president and was loudly booed at
the recent Olympic opening ceremony in Rio de
The impeachment case rests on narrow charges
that Rousseff took unauthorised state loans to
bridge budget shortfalls during her 2014 election
to a second term.
Allies have spent the Senate trial arguing that
these loans were nothing more than stop-gap
measures frequently employed by previous
Opponents, however, have broadened the
accusation to paint Rousseff’s loans as part of her
disastrous mismanagement, contributing to once
booming Brazil’s slide into recession.
Brazil’s economy shrank by 3.8 percent in 2015
and is forecast to drop a further 3.3 percent this
year, the worst performance since the 1930s.
Inflation stands at about 9 percent and
unemployment at 11 percent.
Rousseff’s side says that decline was caused by
forces far beyond the president’s control, notably a
worldwide slump in commodity prices, which hit
Brazil: Globo’s power to influence – The Listening