Brazil’s President Does Damage Control on CNN: ‘I Am a Victim’

Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff attends the launching ceremony of sectoral plans for the mitigation of climate change at the meeting of the Brazilian Forum on Climate Change in Brasilia, June 5, 2013. REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino
REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff has once again called the impeachment process against her a sexist “coup,” lamenting that she will be “very sad” if she cannot attend the Summer Olympics in Brazil as head of state due to accusations of financial misrepresentation against her.

Rousseff’s latest remarks appear in an interview with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour, who has provided a friendly media venue to a cornucopia of heads of state in the past, including Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad, Venezuelan strongman Nicolás Maduro, Libyan tyrant Muammar Qaddafi, Zimbabwe’s genocidal Robert Mugabe, Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev. Joining this pantheon of world leaders, Brazil’s President Rousseff reiterated her claim that any constitutional impeachment process against her is a coup and that her gender has played a role in her unpopularity.

“I think there is a very strong element that has to do with the fact that I am a woman. They have often said that I was a very harsh woman,” she said of her opponents. “I have always replied as follows: ‘Yes, I am a harsh woman, surrounded by cute, polite, gentle, and kind men around me,” she tells Amanpour.

Rousseff initially alleged that the impeachment process was a common one among Brazilian heads of state, who before her had all been men. “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,” she said last month. She has rapidly changed that stance, claiming her impeachment proves widespread “prejudice against women.”

“In Brazil… no one can be impeached for being unpopular,” she argues. “If that were the case, all the presidents and prime ministers of Europe with over 20 percent unemployment rates should be subjected to impeachment because of their steep decline in popularity.”

Rousseff admits that, should she be forced to step down before the Summer Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro this August, she would be “very sad.” “I helped build the effort from day one,” she asserted, an effort plagued by rampant corruption, disease, and at least one architectural catastrophe so far.

“What I will be truly sad about is… that the worst thing for any person is to be the victim of injustice, and I am a victim in this impeachment process,” Rousseff concluded.

Rousseff followed up her CNN interview with a speech from the presidential office in which she called the accusations against her “ridiculous” and defended her government’s outrageous public spending. “I know some accuse me of having expanded social spending, and I feel proud to be playing a role in the expansion of social spending, which incidentally is the duty of a president elected by direct and secret vote of the population,” she told reporters.

A motion to impeach President Rousseff passed the nation’s Chamber of Deputies (their House of Representatives) earlier this month; should a similar motion pass the Senate in early May, she will be removed from office for 180 days while the Senate holds her impeachment trial. Her vice president, Michel Temer, would be the acting president during the Olympic Games.

Rousseff is being accused of taking out large loans, using executive orders, to make Brazil’s economy look stronger, misleading foreign investors. Rousseff has publicly called Temer, a member of the rival leftist Brazilian Democratic Movement Party (PMDB), a “conspirator” and “traitor.”

The head of the Chamber of Deputies, PMDB representative Eduardo Cunha, stands accused of taking at least $5 million in bribes in relation to the sweeping corruption probe known as Operation Car Wash, which has since embroiled Rousseff’s predecessor, former president and current Rousseff Chief of Staff Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. Evidence exists that Rousseff’s appointment of da Silva as her chief of staff was intended to grant him executive immunity, obstructing the case against him. She, however, has not been personally accused of taking money from state-run oil company Petrobras in relation to Operation Car Wash.

On Thursday, Rousseff’s campaign manager João Santana was arrested on charges of taking bribes from Petrobras deals, as part of the Operation Car Wash probe.

Polls indicate that Brazilians widely support the impeachment of Rousseff, Temer, and Cunha.


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