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LatinNews Daily - 30 August 2016

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Brazil’s democracy on trial, declares Rousseff

Development: On 29 August Brazil’s suspended president, Dilma Rousseff, appeared before the federal senate as part of her impeachment trial.

Significance: Rousseff’s impeachment is all but a foregone conclusion, with local media suggesting that 53 of the 54 votes required (or two-thirds of the senate) are already firm. In an odd coincidence, Rousseff was re-elected to a second term in October 2014 with 54m votes. As such, Rousseff’s likely final speech as president was less an appeal to wavering senators than a statement on how history would adjudge the process against her. On this point she was clear, the trial is political and should be judged as a coup d’etat. “This is the second trial I have suffered in which democracy has sat with me in the dock”, Rousseff said, alluding to her detention and torture by the country’s previous military government (1964-1985). “Today, I only fear the death of democracy”.

  • With her predecessor and mentor, Lula da Silva (2003-2011), watching in the audience, Rousseff declared whenever the interests of Latin American economic elites are frustrated by democracy and elections, they conspire against democracy. “I did not commit the crimes that I am arbitrarily and unjustly accused of. We are one step away from a genuine coup d'etat”, she stated.
  • Rousseff also made sure to take a swipe at the instigator of the impeachment trial, the former speaker of the federal chamber of deputies Eduardo Cunha, himself facing a string of serious corruption charges. “Curiously, I will be judged for crimes I did not commit ahead of the trial of the former speaker, who is accused of very serious illegal acts”, Rousseff said. Meanwhile according to Congresso em Foco, a Brasília-based watchdog, one-third of the 81 sitting senators are under investigation for corruption, including fraud, embezzlement, and/or electoral crimes.
  • Reverting to the micro-managerial style for which she is known, Rousseff, a trained economist, went into in-depth technical detail, charts included, about the fiscal crimes of which she is formally accused. It was clear, however, that her audience was not interested in technicalities.

Looking Ahead: A final vote is expected before the end of the week, after which the interim government led by Michel Temer will be confirmed in office until the next scheduled general elections in October 2018. With Rousseff’s departure, the left-wing Partido dos Trabalhadores (PT), in government since 2003, also loses power.