Brazil′s Rousseff testifies before Senate in impeachment trial finale | News | DW | 30.08.2016
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Brazil's Rousseff testifies before Senate in impeachment trial finale

Suspended President Dilma Rousseff has called on the Senate to vote against her impeachment. The embattled leader has also labeled the trial "a pretext for a constitutional coup" and denied the charges against her.

Rousseff proclaimed her innocence at her impeachment trial that started on Monday, while branding her vice president a "usurper."

The president also reiterated the claim that the drive to oust her was a "coup," warning senators that history would "judge them harshly if they oust a democratically elected leader on false charges."

After 12 hours, she was still answering questions from senators late Monday night.
"I know I will be judged, but my conscience is clear. I did not commit a crime," Rousseff said.

"I can't help but taste the bitterness of injustice," she added.

During her 30-minute opening speech, Rousseff argued that in early 2015 opposition lawmakers began creating a climate of instability by refusing to negotiate and throwing what she called "fiscal bombs" in the face of the government's declining revenues as the once booming economy continued its slump.

Referring to Temer, Rousseff said Brazilians would never have elected a man who named a Cabinet of all white men in a country that is more than 50 percent non-white.

"I ask that you be just with an honest president," she said, her voice cracking with emotion.

She reminded the Senate that 54 million Brazilians voted to re-elect her in 2014 and said a vote for impeachment could negatively impact 13 years of social advances.

Rousseff made several references to her personal struggles, including mentioning being tortured during Brazil's military dictatorship and her fight with cancer.

"Today I only fear for the death of democracy for which many of us here in this chamber fought," she said.

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Protests erupt for Brazil's Dilma Rousseff

Facing her accusers

Following her speech where she urged senators to vote against impeachment and "not accept a coup," Brazil's first female president faced questioning from both her allies and opponents.

One pro-impeachment senator Simone Tebet accused her of mishandling public funds during her 2014 election campaign.

"An unreal Brazil was sold. The unreal numbers led to a loss of confidence among Brazilians and we are facing the worst financial crisis in the history of the country," Tebet said.

Following closing arguments, the Senate will start voting on whether or not to convict Rousseff. A final decision could arrive as early as Tuesday.

Charges against Rousseff

Opponents have accused Rousseff of taking illegal state loans to mask deficits, thereby contributing to a financial crisis in the South American nation.

Protesters, fueled by frustration over Brazil's historic recession, have been calling for her removal.

Those who defend Rousseff say the loans were stopgap measures used frequently by prior governments. Her allies say she is being targeted by political opponents and that she is not criminally responsible for the downturn in the economy.

Her speech came during the fourth day of Rousseff's contentious impeachment trial, which even had to be temporarily adjourned on the second day due to shouting and name-calling.

Impeachment process

In order to impeach Rousseff, 54 out of 81 senators will have to vote to convict her. Those who oppose the suspended president have said they will easily reach a two-thirds majority. Up to 48 senators have already publicly declared they will vote to impeach her.

Should the majority be reached, Rousseff would then be immediately removed from office and barred from holding any office for eight years. Acting president, Michel Temer, would then serve out the rest of her term, which concludes at the end of 2018. Temer took over in May when Rousseff was suspended pending an investigation of the charges against her.

Should fewer than 54 vote to remove her, Rousseff has said she would let the nation's voters decide whether to hold early presidential elections.

rs/kms (AP, AFP, Reuters)

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