Friday 21 October 2016

Brazil's suspended president Dilma Rousseff tells trial she committed no crime

Published 29/08/2016 | 18:41

The suspended president said her conscience is clear
The suspended president said her conscience is clear

Suspended Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff, who is accused of breaking fiscal rules to hide federal budget problems, has told senators the allegations against her have no merit.

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Ms Rousseff, who is fighting to save her job, said history would judge the country if she is removed from office.

"I know I will be judged, but my conscience is clear. I did not commit a crime," she told senators at her impeachment trial.

Ms Rousseff reminded senators that she was re-elected in 2014 by more than 54 million voters, adding that she has followed the constitution and done what was best for the country at every moment.

The left-leaning leader who is in the middle of her second term, said she could not help but taste "the bitterness of injustice" in this process.

Brazil's first female president denies wrongdoing and argues that her enemies are carrying out a coup d'etat.

The opposition in Congress began creating a climate of instability in early 2015 by refusing to negotiate and throwing fiscal bombs in the face of declining revenues, argued Ms Rousseff in a 30-minute speech.

She said the impeachment process had made the recession in Latin America's largest economy worse, flipping the blame on the opposition, which often argues she has to be removed for the financial climate to improve.

Ms Rousseff blasted interim president Michel Temer as a usurper. Her vice president turned arch enemy will serve out Ms Rousseff's term if she is removed.

Mr Temer took over when the senate voted to impeach and suspend Ms Rousseff for up to 180 days in May while a trial was prepared.

Ms Rousseff said Brazilians would never have voted for a man who picked a cabinet of all white men in a country that is more than 50% non-white.

The cabinet that Mr Temer put in place in May has been roundly criticised for its lack of diversity.

Three of his ministers were also forced to step down within a month of taking office because of corruption allegations.

Ms Rousseff said the process against her was launched by Eduardo Cunha, the former speaker of the lower house of Congress, who faces numerous changes of corruption.

She said he tried to blackmail her into providing votes from her Workers' Party to quash an ethics inquiry into him.

Ms Rousseff said it was an irony of history that she would be judged for crimes she did not commit, and by people who were accused of serious crimes.

"I ask that you be just with an honest president," she said, her voice cracking with emotion toward the end of her address.

The impeachment process began late last year, when opponents in Congress presented a measure to remove her from office. Her appearance comes a day or two before the senate votes on whether to oust her from the presidency.

Several hundred supporters demonstrated outside Congress, and cheered when she arrived.

A huge wall was put up there to separate Ms Rousseff supporters and pro-impeachment activists.

Her appearance came on the fourth day of the trial which has seen name-calling, shouting and a declaration by the senate president Renan Calheiros that "stupidity is limitless."

Opponents claim her manoeuvres were an attempt to continue high spending and mask deficits, which ultimately exacerbated a severe recession.

The trial is being presided over by supreme court chief justice Ricardo Lewandowski who warned senators and spectators to remain silent before Ms Rousseff spoke.

Many senators applauded when she finished, prompting Mr Lewandowski to temporarily suspend the session.

"We are holding a judgment trial here, not a political debate," he said.


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