THE AMERICAS

Rousseff vows to fight on

Vice President Michel Temer takes over for next six months

Dilma Rousseff speaks to supporters moments after she was suspended from the presidency.
Dilma Rousseff speaks to supporters moments after she was suspended from the presidency.Antonio Lacerda / EFE

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Addressing the nation in an impassioned televised speech from the presidential palace just minutes after she was suspended from the presidency of Brazil by the country’s Senate, a defiant Dilma Rousseff called on Brazilians “who are against this coup to stay mobilized, united and peaceful.”

Rousseff has made it clear over the last five months that she intends to fight her impeachment over accusations she hid a deficit in the public accounts in the run-up to the 2014 elections by using money from a state-owned bank.

And now, after a simple majority of the 81-member Senate voted to impeach her on Thursday, she has been suspended from office for the next six months while it hears her case. In the meantime, she insists she will continue to fight.

Vice President Michel Temer, who has taken over from Rousseff, has already announced a new Cabinet and his intention to focus on the country’s economy and implement business and investment-friendly policies.

The 68-year-old two-times president said the impeachment was the opposition’s opportunity to roll back the policies she had implemented for Brazil’s poor

Flanked by ministers and supporters, Rousseff admitted during her 14-minute speech to making mistakes but that she had not committed any crimes, and insisting: “I did not violate budgetary laws.”

She added: “What is at stake is respect for the ballot box, the sovereign will of the Brazilian people and the constitution.”

Dismissing the impeachment process of the last five months as “fraudulent” and “sabotage,” she vowed to fight the charges against her, insisting she was confident she would be found innocent.

The 68-year-old two-times president said the impeachment was the opposition’s opportunity to roll back the policies she and her predecessor, Lula da Silva, had implemented for Brazil’s poor and lower-middle classes.

“They have taken by force what they could not conquer at the ballot box,” she said of the opposition. “It’s the most brutal of things that can happen to a human being to be condemned for a crime you didn’t commit. There is no more devastating injustice,” she added.

Brazil’s first female president

Her voice momentarily wavering, Rousseff continued, saying that she was proud to have been Brazil’s first female president, and referred to the military regime that ran the country for two decades until 1985 and her cruel treatment at its hands.

“I have suffered the invisible pain of torture, the emotional pain of illness, and now I suffer once more the equally unspeakable pain of injustice,” she said, referring to her battle with cancer.

“What hurts the most in this moment is the injustice. It’s the realization that I’m the victim of a judicial and political farce. But I do not falter. I look back and I see everything we have done. I look onward and I see everything we need to do … I look at myself and see the face of someone who, even though marked by time, still has the strength to fight for their beliefs and rights,” she concluded.

After her speech she left the presidential palace and shook hands with the estimated 3,000 supporters gathered outside.

In another speech outside she told supporters she could feel their “love and energy” on what she called a “tragic” day for the country.

The Senate will vote again in October to decide Rousseff’s future. This time a two-thirds majority will be required. But that is a long way off, and in the meantime, real power will be in the hands of Michel Temer, who has gone from being Rousseff’s political ally, to her worst enemy, and in her words, “the father of the conspirators.”

Rousseff’s opponents in Congress have used the accusations of hiding the budget deficit in 2014 to remove her from office, but many also blame her for the recession that has hit the country, with an economy that has shrunk 3% this year and that has seen Brazil’s international credit rating plummet. The only way forward, they argue, was for a change of government.

Rousseff’s supporters point out that she won 54 million votes in the 2014 elections and that any manipulation of the country’s accounts or the grave economic situation are not just cause for removing her from office. Elections are due in 2018.

 English version by Nick Lyne.

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