BRASMLIA, (Pakistan Point News - 29th August, 2016) : Suspended Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff told senators in emotional testimony at her trial Monday that voting for her impeachment would amount to a "coup d'etat." Declaring her innocence and recalling her torture by Brazil's military dictatorship in the 1970s, Rousseff warned that Latin America's biggest country was on the verge of losing its democracy. "Vote against impeachment, vote for democracy.
... Do not accept a coup," the 68-year-old leftist leader said as she defended herself before senators who are widely expected to remove her from office. "I've come to look your excellencies in the eye and to say that I did not commit a crime," Rousseff said in a calm, firm voice from the Senate chamber podium in the capital Brasilia. "I did not commit the crimes for which I have been accused unjustly and arbitrarily." However, all indications point to the Senate convicting Rousseff, ending 13 years of rule by the leftist Workers' Party.
Brazil's first woman president is accused of having taken illegal state loans to patch budget holes. But momentum to push her out of office is also fueled by deep anger at Brazil's historic recession, political paralysis and a vast corruption scandal centered on state oil giant Petrobras. - Torture - =========== Rousseff's appearance at the trial was the first time she had come face to face with her accusers in the Senate.
Although she spoke mostly in a measured tone, her voice cracked and she appeared close to tears while recalling her suffering as a young leftist guerrilla and in battling cancer. "Twice I have seen the face of death close up: when I was tortured for days on end, subjected to abuses that make us doubt humanity and the meaning of life itself, and when a serious and extremely painful illness could have cut short my life," she said.
"Today I only fear for the death of democracy for which many of us here in this chamber fought." Supporters, including Workers' Party founder and ex-president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, crammed into the packed Senate chamber. They ignored warnings to stay silent from Supreme Court Chief Justice Ricardo Lewandowski, who was presiding, bursting into applause and later chanting: "Dilma, warrior of the Brazilian people!" An angry Lewandowski briefly suspended the session before Rousseff followed her 45-minute speech by taking questions from both allies and opponents.
- Votes against Rousseff - ========================== Despite the drama of the occasion, there appeared to be little Rousseff could say to save her presidency. Closing arguments will begin after her testimony Monday, followed by voting, possibly extending into Wednesday. Opponents say they will easily reach the needed two-thirds majority -- 54 of 81 senators -- to remove her from office. In that case, Rousseff's former vice president turned political enemy, Michel Temer, will be confirmed as president until elections in 2018.
Temer, from the center-right PMDB party, has already been acting president since May, using his brief period in power to steer the government rightward. He plans to leave Tuesday or Wednesday on his first official foreign trip, a G20 summit in China, where officials say he will push to restore the tattered reputation of Brazil's economy. - Meager popular support - ========================== Criticized for lacking a popular touch or appetite for backroom politicking, Rousseff has barely double digit approval ratings.
Brasilia police said they were preparing for about 10,000 demonstrators Monday and up to 30,000 during the impeachment vote session. However, only several hundred people gathered outside the Senate to support Rousseff. "I am fighting to defend democracy and the dignity of the people. This has been a persecution against the Workers' Party, Dilma and the Brazilian people," said retired teacher Marlene Bastos, 65. Although most Brazilians have abandoned Rousseff, there is lingering sympathy for her suffering under the dictatorship.
Although her presidency has been mired in the Petrobras embezzlement and bribery scandal, Rousseff herself has never been charged with trying to enrich herself -- unlike many of her prominent accusers and close allies. Temer is hardly more popular, according to opinion polls. He faces harsh questioning over his legitimacy as an unelected president and was loudly booed at the recent Olympic opening ceremony in Rio de Janeiro. - Criminal or scapegoat? - ========================== The impeachment case rests on narrow charges that Rousseff took unauthorized state loans to bridge budget shortfalls during her 2014 election campaign to a second term.
Allies have spent the Senate trial arguing that these loans were nothing more than stopgap measures frequently employed by previous governments. Opponents, however, have broadened the accusation to paint Rousseff's loans as part of her disastrous mismanagement, contributing to once booming Brazil's slide into recession. Brazil's economy shrank 3.8 percent in 2015 and is forecast to drop a further 3.3 percent this year, the worst performance since the 1930s. Inflation stands at around nine percent and unemployment at 11 percent. Rousseff's side says that decline was caused by forces far beyond the president's control, notably a worldwide slump in commodity prices, which hit exports hard.