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Brazil’s Rousseff denounces 'coup', vows to fight impeachment

Pierre Ausseill, AFP

Brazil's suspended President Dilma Rousseff vowed on Thursday to use "all legal means" for the fight at her upcoming impeachment trial, denouncing the Senate's vote against her as a "coup" and an injustice.

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"I call on you to remain mobilised, united and in peace. The fight for democracy has no expiry date. The fight is permanent," she said, in the stunning hall of the Palacio Planalto executive building.

Rousseff was replaced by an interim leader, Vice President Michel Temer, earlier in the day, whom she accuses of masterminding the "coup" against her.

She again rejected accusations that she had had used illegal accounting tricks in managing the federal budget, arguing that such maneuvers were used by prior presidents without repercussions. 

"I may have committed errors but I never committed crimes," Rousseff said during the 14-minute address, flanked by dozens of top officials and brass from her left-leaning Workers' Party.

The former Marxist guerrilla who was tortured in the 1970s was stoic in her final official appearance, defying the impeachment vote against her by the Senate the previous night. Speaking at what might prove her last official event within the presidential palace, the nation's first female president blasted the process as "fraudulent" and said it was an injustice more painful than the torture she endured under the country's military dictatorship in the 1970s.

The Senate's decision came after a months-long battle that laid bare the country's fury over corruption and economic decay just months before it hosts the Summer Olympics.

Speaking to the several thousand supporters that gathered as she left the Planalto presidential palace, Rousseff said the accusations are nothing more than a red herring and orchestrated by her enemies.

"I am the victim of a great injustice," she said, adding: "I fought my whole life and I'm going to keep fighting."

The Senate now has 180 days to conduct a trial and decide whether Rousseff should be permanently removed from office – in which case Temer would serve out the remainder of her term, which ends in December 2018.

Some of her supporters have promised a campaign of protests and strikes that could complicate the efforts of Temer to govern.

Tainted successors

Impeachment supporters contend that Temer, a career politician and constitutional expert who has also published a collection of poetry, is the best hope for reversing Brazil's economic collapse.

Temer, 75, has promised to cut spending and privatise many sectors controlled by the state. Still, he has repeatedly denied Rousseff's allegations that he intends to dismantle the popular social programmes that helped the Workers' Party lift an estimated 35 million people out of grinding poverty during its 13 years in power.

As Rousseff's impeachment looked increasingly inevitable, Temer began quietly putting together a new Cabinet. Its uncontested star is soon-to-be finance minister Henrique Meirelles, the former head of Brazil's central bank.

The markets reacted positively to news of Rousseff's impeachment and the Brazilian currency, the real – which has fallen precipitously against the dollar over the past year – continued its recent rebound.

While polls have shown a majority of Brazilians support impeaching Rousseff, they also suggest the public is wary about those in line to take her place.

Temer has been implicated in a Petrobras corruption scheme as has Renan Calheiros, the Senate head who is now No. 2 in the line of succession.

(FRANCE 24 with AP and AFP)

 

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