Dilma Rousseff: Impeachment trial has 'bitter taste' of torture

Brazil’s suspended president mounted a defiant and emotional defense of her presidency on Monday during the senate impeachment trial that is due to decide whether to oust her for good.
August 29, 2016, 5:05pm
Imagen por Cadu Gomes/EPA

Brazil's suspended president, Dilma Rousseff, mounted a defiant and emotional defense of her herself, her presidency, and her accounting practices during her impeachment trial in the country's senate on Monday.

"During the struggle against the military dictatorship I was tortured, I suffered for years in prison, and I saw my comrades abused and even killed," Rousseff told the senators, recalling her youth as a left-wing guerrilla. "I cannot avoid feeling again the sour and bitter taste of arbitrary injustice."


The impeachment process against Rousseff began to gather steam at the end of 2015 and led to her suspension from the presidency in May pending the senate trial that began last week. The final vote is expected on Tuesday or Wednesday.

Her speech appeared designed more for the history books than as an effort to sway the opinions in the chamber. Most believe the senate will condemn Rousseff and leave her job permanently in the hands of interim president Michel Temer until her term runs out in 2018. Rousseff is accused of breaking budgetary laws in the run up to her reelection in 2014, when she authorized maneuvers to cover up the real state of national deficits with loans from state banks.

She has always insisted that these kind of creative accounting methods are perfectly legal as well as normal practice, but her defense on Monday put far more emphasis on describing the allegations as "pretexts to legitimize a coup" against her planned, she said, by the economic elite and leaders of the political opposition.

To back her claim, Rousseff highlighted the fact that some of the leaders of the impeachment drive face much more more serious allegations of corruption within the so-called Lava Jato, judicial investigations into kickbacks within the state-run oil company Petrobras that has tainted dozens of politicians from across the political spectrum.

"An irony of history?," she asked. "No way. This was a deliberate action that could count on the complicity silence of sectors of the Brazilian media."


Rousseff also alleged that the impeachment process was essentially a misogynist move against the country's first female president who had been elected to office twice with a mandate to combat injustice. She underlined that Temer initially appointed a cabinet that was all male and all white, in a country where more than half the population is mixed race.

The 68-year-old daughter of a Bulgarian communist immigrant also stressed her charge that the impeachment process had deliberately worsened Brazil's dismal economic crisis. It would, she said, give the "usurper government" the chance to roll back key social advances made during over 13 years of Workers' Party government started by her predecessor and mentor Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.

Lula, whose days as a global leftist icon are also now challenged by allegations of corruption within the Lava Jato probe, was in the senate's public gallery on Monday watching Rousseff first speak and then spend hours more answering questions from individual senators.

Interim President Temer, meanwhile, has been notably quiet.

Since the trial began last week, the veteran center-right politician — who was Rousseff's vice president for years before becoming her arch enemy — used his Twitter account to mention new policies on transporting organs for transplant, and the final peace deal in Colombia between the government and the FARC guerrillas. He has said nothing about the impeachment from which he has most to gain.

Related: The Impeachment of Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff Now Seems All but Inevitable

Follow Jo Tuckman on Twitter: @jotuckman