Talking to a packed theater at the Bank Workers’ Union of Brasília, Brazil’s suspended President Dilma Rousseff again said there is an ongoing coup d’État in Brazil and that she was being punished even though she had not committed impeachable offenses. “They are convicting me of some fantasy, a ‘non-offence’. I have committed no crime.”
At the Ato em Defesa da Democracia (Act in Defense of Democracy), an anti-impeachment demonstration called by Frente Brasil Popular movement, Rousseff said that she had thought over the underlying motives of the impeachment case and concluded it had originated from her adversaries’ four defeats in the past four presidential elections.
“The fourth of them when I was re-elected it was the last straw for them.” That was when she says Congress began its attempt to impose an indirect election on the country.
“That’s what it is about. In the direct election, millions discussed the proposals. In the indirect election, only 81 are discussing them. That’s what has been going on in our country and we cannot accept that,” she said.
She argued that a new election is the only way to stop the “disruption of democracy” now underway in the country: “An election is required to restore all of the country’s democratic institutions. There’s one thing we cannot look at without criticism — they are trying to replace an electoral college made up by Brazil’s 110 million voters with one of 81 senators,” she said.
The suspended president pointed out that in every presidential election, Brazilians discuss the main issues the country has to address, and she was democratically elected in 2014 based on that “wide-reaching” discussion.
Rousseff said that it could be concluded “beyond doubt” that her voters had chosen an agenda that favored a production sharing model for pre-salt oil production, and the welfare politics of minimum wage appreciation, the Bolsa Família conditional cash transfer program, the More Doctors program, and other social policies. This agenda, she said, is very different from what interim President Michel Temer is doing now.
“We voted against the traditional politics that is now being pursued, which, at first surreptitiously, and now more openly, has dominated the political debate in our country, and is being presented as the solution for the country’s problems.”
She instanced a proposed amendment to the constitution that could freeze real increase in government spending on education and health for 20 years, which she argues is set to undermine these areas.
Rousseff also stressed that the group that is now in power has been announcing the adoption of unpopular measures that did not stand the test of the ballot.
About the criticism she has faced for defending herself in Congress and the Supreme Court, she said she continues to abide by democratic institutions even though she thinks the whole process is a coup:
“We respect the institutions unlike the coup-backers, and we need to be able to live in a democratic regime, and have used every available instrument to save our democracy.”
Remembering Getúlio Vargas
In her speech Wednesday, Rousseff also argued that Brazil’s democracy did not “come out of the blue”, noting that day August 24 was the 62nd anniversary of President Getúlio Vargas’s suicide, which she said prevented a disruption of democracy in the country at the time (1954).
According to her, Vargas committed suicide because he “wanted to protect the country’s democracy as he knew it was under threat. And he managed to avert a coup for a long time.” “Today, I don’t have to resign or commit suicide, I don’t have to flee to Uruguay, we’re at another point in history,” she said.
She wound up her speech by saying that “in life we always have to fight”, and the impeachment case against her that democracy should not be taken for granted:
“I thought at one point in my life that I’d never see such arbitrary processes again, that I’d never see a disruption of democracy and a coup d’État again, and I’m living intensely.” She vowed to keep fighting for Brazil’s democracy like she fought against the military dictatorship.
The demonstration brought together representatives of social movements and trade unions, as well as such former members of Rousseff’s cabinet as Eleonora Menicucci, Miriam Belchior, Jaques Wagner, Patrus Ananias, and Miguel Rossetto.
A two-third majority (at least 54 votes in a total of 81 senators) is required to impeach President Dilma Rousseff and remove her permanently from office.
If impeached, Rousseff will be banned from holding political office for eight years, and Vice-President Michel Temer, currently acting as president, serves out the remainder of her term until 2018.
If her impeachment is voted down, Rousseff will be reinstated, and the impeachment case is closed.
Impeachment Is Natural
Interim President Michel Temer denied to be suffering from nerves due to suspended President Dilma Rousseff’s trial that began this Thursday, August 25.
After taking part in an event at the Planalto Palace, the presidential office, to mark the beginning of the Paralympics torch relay, Temer briefly talked to reporters who asked if he was suffering from nerves or unsure about the process.
“It is a very natural thing in democracy,” said the president, while leaving the Noble Room of the presidential office.
In Niterói, Rio de Janeiro, to participate in an act with steelworkers in the Mauá shipyard, former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva defended the suspended president and criticized senators for beginning “the week of national shame.”
For him, senators “are beginning to debate the punishment for an innocent woman whose only crime committed was exactly being honest,” and they are “chasing” votes of Brazilians who elected her in 2014.
The former president also criticized the administration of interim President Michel Temer, who, according to Lula, is running over the constitution to rise to power.
During the opening of the session marking the final stage of the impeachment proceedings against Rousseff, the head of the Supreme Court (STF), Justice Ricardo Lewandowski, delivered a speech drawing upon the responsibility of senators.
According to Lewandowski, senators “are now made into veritable judges.” As such, he said, senators should abandon their ideological positions, political preferences, and personal inclinations.
Brazil’s top court president urged the members of the upper house to “act with the utmost impartiality and objectivity, weighing the facts as they present themselves in the proceedings and the laws pertaining thereto.”
Remarking on the gravity of the case, the justice mentioned the Judicial Code of Ethics: “the judge, in the exercise of his/her arduous yet sublime mission, must be guided first and foremost by the principles of independence, impartiality, knowledge, and competence, acting with courtesy, transparency, prudence, diligence, integrity, dignity, honor, and decorum,” he remarked.
Senators will be hearing the eight witnesses listed for the case: two from the prosecution, and six from the defense.
On the eve of the impeachment trial, the Speaker of the Chamber of Deputies, Rodrigo Maia, welcomed interim government ministers and PMDB and PSDB party members for dinner at his home in Brasília.
His guests included Senate President Renan Calheiros, Senator Aécio Neves, Chief of Staff Eliseu Padilha, and the Head of the Government Secretariat, Geddel Vieira Lima.
The meeting followed another one held last week in São Paulo where the economic team and parliament leaders discussed plans to cap public spending in 2017 even before the approval of a bill on the issue that is pending before Congress.
Pay Rise for Supreme Court
The government denies being at odds with the PSDB after disputes over a bill to increase the salaries of Supreme Court (STF) justices. If approved, the pay rise would have a cascade effect across the judicial branch, increasing government spending.
The vote on the pay rise proposal had been set to take place on September 6, a week after the verdict on President Rousseff’s impeachment trial. Senate President Renan Calheiros noted that interim President Michel Temer and he had promised the pay rise to the judiciary, and played down its impact on public finance.
“Its effects are not significant for fiscal balance. Brazil is functioning well, the institutions are functioning well, the government branches have harmonious relations, but are independent from each other.”
In his opinion, putting “Brazil’s fiscal troubles down to the judiciary pay rise which are really minor — that’s such a narrow take on this discussion, you can’t go along with that,” he said.