Brazilian president stands firm, saying in an interview she is ‘not a weak woman’ and any attempt to remove her would be illegal and harmful to the country
A defiant Dilma Rousseff has insisted that there is no legal justification for her impeachment and warned that any attempt to remove her from power illegally would leave lasting scars on Brazilian democracy.
In a 90-minute interview with six foreign media organizations in Planalto, the presidential palace, Rousseff stated that “peace would reign” in Brazil by the start of this year’s Olympic Games, due to take place in Rio de Janeiro in August.
Thousands of Brazilians later took to the streets in Sao Paulo in support of the embattled president. They followed huge anti-government protests that have shaken the country in recent weeks as revelations over the country’s worst-ever corruption scandal add momentum to an impeachment process that began in December.
The president’s attempt to appoint her predecessor, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, to cabinet last week – in what critics argue is a move to shield him from prosecution – added to widespread public outrage at politicians’ impunity and prompted calls for Rousseff’s resignation.
“Why do they want me to resign? Because I am a weak woman? I’m not,” she said, arguing that her political rivals wanted her to stand down “to avoid the difficulty of removing – unduly, illegally and criminally – a legitimately elected president from power”.
Pushed as to why it was necessary for Lula to become a minister, rather than serve as an adviser, Rousseff said he had repeatedly turned down her requests to join her government, but now that the crisis had deepened he was doing it as a service for Brazil.
“I became his cabinet chief in 2005 in the middle of the mensalão [cash-for-votes scandal],” she said. “I know I helped him then, and I know he can help me now.”
The impeachment process currently in congress accuses Rousseff of using illegal accounting manoeuvres to balance her government’s books, but she insists that the legal basis for the accusation is extremely weak.
Rousseff has proved herself a fighter. As a leftwing guerrilla during the dictatorship era, she was imprisoned and reportedly tortured.
Rousseff noted that every president since the time of Getúlio Vargas (who ruled from 1930 to 1945) have had impeachment processes launched against them. She also noted that the man who initiated the case against her, Eduardo Cunha, the speaker of the lower house of congress, has been charged with corruption.
In the president’s opinion, the opposition failed to accept their narrow defeat in the 2014 election and since then have pursued a strategy of “the worse, the better”, by sabotaging her legislative agenda and sinking the country.
As for the demonstrations, Rousseff stressed that she was in favour of street protests, because she came from “a generation in which if you opened your mouth you could go to jail”.
But she pointed out that those who have taken to the streets against her government represent less than 2% of Brazil’s entire population, and criticised the “fascist methods” used by some of her opponents.
“We have never seen such intolerance in Brazil,” she said. “We are not an intolerant people.”