President Dilma Rousseff of Brazil has come out swinging against the legislature’s move to impeach her for misrepresenting the state of the Brazilian economy, proclaiming the constitutional impeachment process an “injustice” and claiming impeachment is a tool of the nation’s “coup supporters.”
On Monday, she delivered her first speech since the lower house of the Brazilian Congress voted by a wide margin to impeach her, sending the process to the Senate. “Today more than anything I feel wronged — wronged because this process doesn’t have any legal basis,” she said, calling the impeachment an act of “violence against democracy.” She once again referred to the impeachment process as a “coup” attempt and vowed that she had “the energy, strength, and courage to confront this injustice.”
In a veiled insult to the head of the Brazilian House of Representatives, Eduardo Cunha, Rousseff emphasized that “there are no bribery accusations against me, no accusations that I accepted illicit payouts. I wasn’t accused of having foreign banks accounts.” Cunha stands accused of taking $5 million in bribes to ensure certain corporations got contracts with state-run oil corporation Petrobras.
Rousseff followed up her fiery speech Monday with remarks on Tuesday that appeared to attempt to strike a more pragmatic approach to the impeachment process, appealing to the history of no confidence Brazil has in its presidents. Referring to the repeated use of impeachment as a sign of a “dormant pro-coup streak” in Brazilian politics, Rousseff argued that, “If we follow the path of the presidents of my country, the presidential regime, from Getulio Vargas [1951-1954] on, we see that impeachment has systematically become an instrument against elected presidents.” “I am sure that there has not been a single president after the re-democratization of the country that has not faced deterrent processes in Congress,” she argued. O Globo dutifully notes that, in her speech, Rousseff did not mention the many times that her own Workers’ Party has been behind impeachment attempts, against centrist leaders like Fernando Henrique Cardoso.
Rousseff faces impeachment for passing executive orders designed to mask the declining state of the Brazilian economy during her most recent tenure. The House of Representatives has voted in favor of impeachment, sending the process over to the Senate. Should the Senate vote to impeach Rousseff, she will have to step down for 180 days until her impeachment trial is complete. Vice President Michel Temer of the left-wing Brazilian Democratic Movement Party (PMDB) would then assume the presidency. Temer is also facing a movement to be impeached, but few expect the House to begin that process, as the head of the assembly, Cunha, is also a member of the PMDB. Those in favor of impeaching Temer argue that he supported the same economic measures for which Rousseff is facing impeachment, which misinformed both business in Brazil and foreign investors.
Temer has remained out of the spotlight during the entire process. Approached by press on Tuesday, he issued a statement that he was merely “silently and respectfully awaiting the decision of the Senate” and that it would be “inappropriate” for him to make any public comments on the matter before the Senate has “the last word on the matter.”