By Karine Melo and Carolina Gonçalves
“Removing me from office is like sentencing me to a political death penalty,” Dilma Rousseff saidMarcelo Camargo/Agência Brasil
As she argued her defense in person before senators on Monday (Aug. 29), speaking for about 45 minutes, Brazil's suspended President Dilma Rousseff said she had come to the Senate to “look into the eyes” of the Senators who were to try her.
“I know that soon, and once again in my life, I will be tried. With an absolutely clear conscience regarding my actions, I have come in person to stand before those who will try me,” she said.
Rousseff denied the impeachment charges, which she called “unfair and arbitrary”. “Today, Brazil, the world, and history are watching us and awaiting the outcome of this impeachment case,” she said.
“Never would I violate what I believe, or commit any acts against the interests of those who elected me,” Rousseff said, visibly moved. She was overcome with emotion at several points in her address.
Rousseff criticized the administration of Vice-President Michel Temer, who has been acting as president since her suspension on May 12. “A coup that, if consummated, will result in the indirect election of a usurping government. The indirect election of a government which, even while still acting on an interim basis, no longer has women heading its ministries, whereas the people has chosen a woman by ballot to lead the country,” she said.
She went on to say that during her administration and that of former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, “all the conditions were provided to allow any investigations to be carried out.”
“I ensured the independence of the Public Prosecution Services and did not tolerate any political interference with the [investigative] activities of Federal Police. I have opposed interests and now I have paid, and am still paying, a high personal price for the stance I have taken,” she said.
Rousseff also mentioned former lower house Speaker Eduardo Cunha, who was responsible for giving the green light to the impeachment case against her at the Chamber of Deputies.
Talking about Cunha's political allies, she said they found “an apex for the coup-backing alliance,” “coordinated and forged a loss of government majority in parliament. Situations have been created with blatant support from sections of the media.” She went on, “Everybody knows that this impeachment case was explicitly opened as an act of blackmail by the former Speaker of the Chamber of Deputies, Eduardo Cunha.”
Rousseff said if she had been an “accomplice” to malfeasance and with “what is worst in Brazilian politics, as many today seem to have no shame in doing,” she would not have risked being unfairly charged.
The suspended president said she would never resign from office, even under strong pressure from her political opponents.
“I never would, because I have unswerving commitment to the rule of law. I must confess that treason and verbal abuse have frightened me, and at times, badly hurt me, but they have been overwhelmed by the solidarity of millions of Brazilians in the streets,” she said. Rousseff said she would respect all positions, thanked the efforts of her allies in Senate, and made an appeal to the indecisive senators.
“Removing me from office is like sentencing me to a political death penalty,” she said, noting that she had faced death more than once, for example, when she battled cancer. “Today, I fear only the death of democracy for which many of us here have fought. I have no hard feelings for those who vote to impeach me,” she said.
The suspended president concluded her address with an appeal: “I ask you to do justice to an honest president who has never committed any illegal actions. [I ask you to] Vote with no resentment—the feelings of each senator for me and what we feel for each other is not as important now as what we all feel for the country and the Brazilian people. I urge you to vote against impeachment and for democracy.”
Translated by Mayra Borges / Edited by: Maria Claudia / Nira Foster
Empresa Brasil de Comunicação S/A - EBC