Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff will not be presiding over this year’s Summer Olympics. The nation’s Senate has voted to impeach her, and as of Thursday morning, she is no longer in power, replaced by Vice President Michel Temer.
Rousseff announced her ouster by the hands of the Senate this morning in a fiery speech in which she condemned those responsible for impeaching her of trying to place Brazil in a “state of permanent instability” and “tak[ing] by force what they could not take at the polls.” Walking out to her speech at 11 a.m. local time to chants of “Dilma, Warrior, the Brazilian People” (“Dilma, Guerrera, La Patria Brasilera”) – a homage to her time as a leftist guerrilla in the late 1960s and ’70s – she announced that she would be removed from power and urged Brazilians to rise up against the “injustice” facing her.
“Since I was elected, an unsatisfied part of the opposition began to conspire openly for my impeachment,” she told the audience, repeatedly calling the impeachment “fraudulent” and an “intense sabotage.”
“I did not commit a crime of responsibility, I do not have mystery [offshore] accounts, I never received bribes,” she insisted. “I did not commit crimes. I am being tried unjustly.”
“There is no greater crime than to condemn an innocent,” she added, repeating to applause that she was “proud of being Brazil’s first female president” and of the social programs her government implemented, such as raising the minimum wage and providing more student loans to the poor. “By removing my government, they want to impede the execution of programs that were chosen by the majority of 54 million Brazilians,” she insisted.
After repeatedly condemning the legislators responsible for voting for her coup, Rousseff turned her attention to her supporters listening. “The biggest risk facing the country is to be directed by an unelected government, a government that will not have the mandate to implement solutions for the challenges facing Brazil; a government that can be tempted to repress those who protest against them,” she warned. “There are millions … in defense of democracy in our nation. I know, and many here know – overall our people know – that our story is full of struggle and it is always worth struggling for democracy.”
“I never thought it would be necessary to fight against a coup in my country again,” she lamented.
Rousseff was notified of her removal from power by the Senate shortly before the speech. Vice President Michel Temer is now the head of state of Brazil, and will be for the next 180 days. He will be permanently given the position if the impeachment trial in the Senate finds Rousseff guilty.
Rousseff is facing charges of taking out massive loans to manipulate the appearance of the Brazilian economy, making it seem more robust than it actually was, to attract foreign investors. Her repeated assertions of not having any offshore accounts or taking bribes were not-so-veiled barbs at senior ranking members of the House, including recently-ousted former Speaker Eduardo Cunha, who stands accused of taking bribes from major corporations in a corruption investigation known as “Operation Car Wash.” The operation, which ran during the tenure of Rousseff’s predecessor, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, consisted of politicians using the state-run oil company Petrobras as a source of billions of dollars in bribes and laundered money.
While Rousseff has not personally been implicated in the scandal, there is evidence she attempted to shield Lula from an investigation that found he had used illicit money to buy beachfront property. Shortly after the announcement of an investigation into Lula, Rousseff appointed him her chief of staff, granting him executive immunity from prosecution. The public reaction to her potential involvement in Operation Car Wash was to organize mass peaceful protests attracting more than three million people.
With Rousseff out, Lula is also out of his position in the presidential palace. It is unclear how the investigation into his role in the scheme will proceed following her removal.
Rousseff has previously asserted that her impeachment was a product of her gender and compared the process to the persecution of Jewish Europeans by Nazi Germany. She is the first president removed by impeachment in Brazil since Fernando Collor de Mello in 1992. He is currently a senator and voted in favor of impeaching Rousseff.