Dilma Rousseff has promised to fight on against an attempt to impeach her, which she dismissed as part of Brazil’s long tradition of coups.
In her first meeting with the foreign media after the lower house of congress voted to impeach her on Sunday (17), the president said her country had a tradition of not respecting elected authority that dated back 60 or 70 years.
“Brazil has a dormant coupist streak,” Ms Rousseff said. “If we follow the trajectory of the presidents of our country . . . we will see that impeachment has systematically become an instrument for use against elected presidents.”
The president, under pressure for a collapse in economic growth and a vast corruption scandal at Petrobras, the state-owned oil company, is locked in a bitter fight with her vice-president, Michel Temer, who will take her job if she is impeached.
The motion has now moved on to the senate. If more than half of the 81-seat upper house accepts the motion, which argues that Ms Rousseff violated the law by fudging the national budget to disguise a deficit, Ms Rousseff will be suspended and Mr Temer would take over as soon as early next month.
If after up to six months of deliberations the senate decides by a two-thirds majority to formally impeach Ms Rousseff, Mr Temer would assume power until the next elections in 2018.
The opposition has begun to fight back against Ms Rousseff’s characterisation of the proposed impeachment as a coup, saying the country needs to get a new and stable government in place as fast as possible to rescue it from the worsening economic crisis.
“Congress and Brazilian society has realised we are rapidly arriving at the bottom of the well,” said senator Aloysio Nunes of the opposition PSDB party.
“We do not have hyperinflation, but we do have a social crisis. We have had two years of a recession which has no parallels, not even the crisis in 1929 and 1930. The social situation is one of emergency and congress is aware of this.”
Backing congress’s charges that Ms Rousseff manipulated the budget, allowing her to spend more ahead of the 2014 elections, he insisted the impeachment was legal. “We would be a banana republic if the president could do whatever he or she wanted, whatever enters his or her head, without anything ever happening to them,” he said.
Mr Temer is the head of the PMDB, the biggest party in congress and until recently Ms Rousseff’s main coalition partner. On Tuesday (19), Ms Rousseff bitterly attacked him as the leader of the “coup”.
“It is startling that a vice-president in the exercise of his mandate would conspire openly against the president,” Ms Rousseff said. “In no democracy in the world would a person who did that be respected because every one of us knows the injustice and pain that you feel when are betrayed.”
Asked if she would call early elections, Ms Rousseff did not dismiss the notion but said it was not being considered at present. “This is not the beginning of the end; we are at the beginning of the fight, and it will be a long one,” she said.
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2016
(c) 2016 The Financial Times Limited