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Rousseff warns Brazil’s Senate that impeachment could drag millions back into poverty

Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff made her defense in front of the Senate on Monday, August 29. (Credit: Fabio Rodrigues Pozzebom/Agência Brasil/Flickr)

Brazil’s Dilma Rousseff delivered what could have been her last speech as president on Monday, appearing before the Senate to defend herself in an impeachment trial to remove her from office this week.

In her passionate speech, Rousseff calmly denied any charges of breaking budgetary rules. She also warned senators that a future conservative government under Interim President Michel Temer would slash spending on social programs that, over the last decade, helped reduce inequality and lift 30 million people out of poverty.

“The future of Brazil is at stake,” she said, describing those seeking to impeach her as elites “trying to create a democratic rupture.” She implored senators to “vote against impeachment and vote for democracy,” arguing that ousting her as president would only deepen the crisis in the country.

Rousseff warned that under Temer, Brazil could see a sell-off of critical state assets, including its massive offshore oil reserves.

In the last-ditch attempt to reshape her legacy, Rousseff also implied that, unlike other major Brazilian politicians – including those legislators calling for her impeachment – she has not been accused of illegally enriching herself.

“This process,” she said, “has been marked from start to finish by a blatant misappropriation of power.”

Rousseff’s popularity dwindled to single figures this year in the wake of a deep recession. Many Brazilians blame the economic crisis on her government’s interventionist policies and for manipulating the federal budget in 2014 when she was seeking re-election, effectively masking the extent of Brazil’s economic problems.

Rousseff’s supporters maintain that what she did was a common practice, which previous presidents also engaged in. Her opponents argue that what she did was illegal and that no exceptions can be made to keep her in office.

Some analysts say the charges against Rousseff are relatively weak compared to other members of Brazil’s government, who have been implicated in far more severe forms of corruption. But a survey published by O Estado de S.Paulo newspaper on Monday showed that 53 senators would vote against Rousseff, and only 19 would back her, falling nine votes short of the 28 she needs to avoid being ousted. Nine senators have not stated their position.

If Rousseff is impeached, Temer would serve out her term until it ends in December 2018. Since Temer took over as interim president, three of his top ministers resigned after being named in a corruption investigation into state-run oil company Petrobras, though all three ministers have denied the allegations.

The vote on whether to convict Rousseff, who was suspended from office in May, is expected early this week.


About Author

Lisa Nikolau

Lisa Nikolau is a Madrid-based reporter for Humanosphere, covering gender equality, indigenous rights and poverty in Latin America and worldwide. Find her on Twitter at @lisanikolau, email or see her latest work at