Rousseff vows to continue fight against successor

The Brazilian Senate voted on Wednesday to remove Ms Dilma Rousseff - the country's first female president - from office for manipulating the federal Budget to hide the real state of the country's ailing economy in the run-up to her 2014 re-election.
The Brazilian Senate voted on Wednesday to remove Ms Dilma Rousseff - the country's first female president - from office for manipulating the federal Budget to hide the real state of the country's ailing economy in the run-up to her 2014 re-election.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

Sacked Brazilian president repeats claim that her vice-president had led 'coup' against her

BRASILIA • Ms Dilma Rousseff survived torture as a guerrilla opposing a military dictatorship before rising to become Brazil's president, but plunged from the heights and ended up being sacked from office last week in an impeachment trial.

In her first briefing since then, she told newsmen on Friday that she would abandon the presidential residence this week but vowed to continue the fight against her successor, Mr Michel Temer, from her adopted hometown of Porto Alegre. She repeated her claim that Mr Temer, her former vice-president, had led a "coup".

"I will not stay in Brasilia. I will go to Porto Alegre... early next week," Ms Rousseff said at the briefing for foreign reporters.

"Democracy was on trial alongside me. Unfortunately, we lost," she said, referring to her impeachment. "I hope that we can rebuild it and make sure that this never happens again."

Ms Rousseff was born in the city of Belo Horizonte but built her political career further south in Porto Alegre. Her daughter and grandchildren still live there and she keeps an apartment in the city.

The Brazilian Senate voted on Wednesday to remove Ms Rousseff from office for manipulating the federal Budget to hide the real state of the country's ailing economy in the run-up to her 2014 re-election. But in an unexpected separate vote, lawmakers spared the 68-year-old leftist leader from an eight-year ban on running for public office or holding any position in government, as provided for in the Constitution.

The ousted leader said last Friday that senators had voted for her to retain her political rights because they were undecided over whether charges that she doctored official Budget figures warranted her dismissal.

Ms Rousseff said she had no plans to run for elected office but would remain politically active in opposition to what she called the "illegitimate" government of her conservative former vice-president.

"My political plan is to oppose this government," she said.

Major parties in the governing conservative coalition pressed the Supreme Court on Friday to overturn the Senate decision allowing her to remain politically active, a move her lawyers dismissed as likely to fail as the court would have to annul both Senate votes as one had influenced the other.

Unlike many of the politicians who led the charge to oust her, Ms Rousseff remains a rare breed in Brazil: a prominent leader who has not been accused of illegally enriching herself.

Instead, her trial revolved around a contentious legal question of whether she committed an impeachable offence. Ms Rousseff has repeatedly insisted that she did nothing illegal, pointing out that her predecessors also manipulated the federal Budget.

But her opponents argued that the scale of her administration's transfers of funds between giant public banks, to the tune of about US$11 billion (S$15 billion), seriously eroded Brazil's economic credibility and helped her get re-elected unfairly in 2014. Ms Rousseff expressed defiance throughout her trial, insisting that Brazil's economic crisis was largely the result of shifts in the global economy that cut commodity prices.

A bureaucrat who specialised in overseeing giant public companies in Brazil's energy industry, Ms Rousseff had not held elected office until her predecessor, Mr Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, anointed her as his heir after other leaders in the Workers' Party were tarnished by a vote-buying scandal.

A divorced grandmother known as an avid reader of literature, she was an exception in the male-dominated political scene.

In addition to serving as Mr da Silva's hard-charging chief of staff, she was known for her involvement with the Palmares Armed Revolutionary Vanguard, an urban guerrilla group, in her youth. Agents of the military dictatorship captured Ms Rousseff and tortured her repeatedly in the early 1970s.

But the qualities that made her a compelling chief of staff did not carry over when she became president. Her autocratic persona and short temper became legendary in Brasilia, a capital where backroom deals are customary when forging and nurturing alliances with an array of bickering parties.

Brazil has now impeached two of the four presidents it has elected since returning to democracy in 1985 after two decades of military dictatorship. Mr Fernando Collor de Mello, who was accused of corruption, resigned from the presidency in December 1992 at the beginning of his impeachment hearing before the Senate.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, NEW YORK TIMES, WASHINGTON POST

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on September 04, 2016, with the headline 'Rousseff vows to continue fight against successor'. Print Edition | Subscribe