Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff issued a defiant statement Tuesday, asserting that an investigation implicating her in a billion-dollar corruption scandal is an attempt at a coup d’etat and that she will “never resign” from her post, despite millions of Brazilians taking to the streets to demand she step down.
“I committed no crimes as prescribed in the Constitution and the laws [of Brazil] to justify the interruption of my tenure,” she told an audience that erupted in a shout that “there will be no coup!”
“This has only one name: a coup. … It is a coup against democracy,” she added, asserting, “I will never resign, under any hypothesis.”
The Brazilian newspaper O Globo reported shortly after her speech that the government appears to be openly distributing talking points accusing those denouncing her potential involvement in the ongoing investigation into oil corporation Petrobras as supporters of a coup. On Wednesday, Brazil’s Minister of Foreign Affairs” sent a telegram to all of Brazil’s diplomatic stations and embassies abroad, commanding they issue a coup warning for Brazil.
“The message called for each station to appoint a diplomat to talk to civil society organizations,” O Globo reports. An unidentified diplomat told the newspaper that “the idea was spread around the world that there is a coup here, and that governments and the world’s civil society groups must sympathize with the Workers’ Party.”
The telegram was swiftly redacted, the newspaper notes, by Secretary General of the Foreign Ministry Sérgio Danese.
Rousseff does not yet stand accused of any direct involvement in the Petrobras scandal, but a large number of Workers’ Party politicians do. Brazil’s federal court is investigating a corruption scheme going back to Rousseff’s predecessor, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, in which Petrobras overcharged contractors for their services to the tune of $3 billion dollars. Much of this money ended up in the pockets of Workers’ Party officials or was used to fund campaigns, according to prosecutors.
Da Silva was detained and interrogated earlier this month for allegedly having used Petrobras money. The arrest prompted some of the largest protests in the history of Brazil, with an estimated 3.6 million people taking to the streets nationwide calling for Rousseff’s impeachment and resignation. Rousseff was minister of energy during the time of the Petrobras scheme. Petrobras is a state-owned company.
Shortly after the release of damning information against da Silva, Rousseff appointed him her chief of staff. A president’s chief of staff in Brazil enjoys executive immunity, so this has kept da Silva safe from possible prosecution. Only the Supreme Court of Brazil may enable an investigation against the president of any of her ministers. Brazil’s federal court system invalidated the appointment, however, accusing Rousseff of potentially obstructing justice by making an ongoing investigation impossible.
Now Brazil’s Attorney General’s Office (PGR) is seeking not only to target da Silva, but to find a legal way to investigate Rousseff herself. The PGR sent twenty petitions to the Supreme Court last week, calling for the court to accept a case based on the testimony of former Senator Delcidio Amaral, who implicated da Silva in his testimony after being arrested on corruption charges. Amaral also suggested a Rousseff appointment to the Supreme Court may have been intended to protect politicians implicated in the Petrobras investigation.
One of the petitions calls for an investigation into Rousseff for attempting to obstruct the federal court by appointing da Silva as minister. Following da Silva’s appointment, Federal Court Judge Sergio Mora released audio of a wiretapped phone call between Rousseff and da Silva, where the president appears to offer da Silva a ministerial position to protect him from prosecution. The petitions to the Supreme Court suggest a deeper investigation based on this evidence.