Rousseff Likens Impeachment to Coup, Says Won't Ever Resign

  • Rousseff Says Plot Against Her Threatens Brazil Rule of Law
  • Floor vote on impeachment possible in April: lower house chief

Brazil’s embattled President Dilma Rousseff said that she will not resign under any circumstances and that she is determined to battle impeachment attempts that threaten the rule of law.

In a meeting with pro-government legal experts, Rousseff said that a plot to impeach her amounted to a coup against democracy and that the Supreme Court needed to put an end to it.

“I never thought it would be necessary to mobilize society around a new campaign for the rule of law after the dictatorship,” she said, recalling her struggle as guerrilla fighter to topple the 1964-85 military regime. “I’d rather not be living through this moment but, make no mistake, I have more than enough energy and willingness to face the conspiracy that threatens the country’s democratic stability.”

Appealing to the Supreme Court could be Rousseff’s last resort against an impeachment process that is gaining traction in Congress. Yet, so far, the Supreme Court has been of little help in Rousseff’s attempt to tap former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva as chief of staff to help rebuild support in Congress.

A second Supreme Court Justice on Tuesday refused to revert a colleague’s decision that banned Lula from joining Rousseff’s cabinet. The Justices are not expected to issue a definitive decision on the case until after the Easter holiday, frustrating the administration’s request for a speedy solution to the legal quagmire.

Debt Relief

Meanwhile, her administration proposed debt relief for states and more flexible budget targets to help gather support among lawmakers.

The measures presented by Finance Minister Nelson Barbosa on Monday follow criticism by legislators, business leaders and some governors that austerity measures and political stalemate have exacerbated a recession that is forecast to be the worst in over 100 years. 

“If the government lends a hand and supports the states, the chance that governors will pressure legislators to vote against impeachment increases considerably,” said Thiago de Aragao, partner and director of strategy at political-risk consulting company Arko Advice.

Urgency

A lower house committee tasked with drafting a recommendation on whether to impeach Rousseff met for the first time Monday, a sign of urgency in a Congress that traditionally only sits from Tuesday to Thursday. Its chairman, Rogerio Rosso, said he expects the report to be ready by April 11, reinforcing Speaker Eduardo Cunha’s forecast of a vote on the floor in April.

Pressure for legislators to oust Rousseff has mounted in recent days. An opinion survey published by Datafolha polling firm on Saturday showed that support for impeachment rose to 68 percent, up from 60 percent in February. The Brazilian bar association, which was influential in the country’s return to democracy in 1985 and the impeachment of President Fernando Collor in 1992, on Friday voted to back the move.

Carwash, Recession

The administration had hoped Lula could rebuild support in Congress to avoid Rousseff’s impeachment on allegations that she doctored budget results and that her re-election campaign in 2014 received graft money. Critics say she brought Lula into the cabinet to shield him from a possible arrest related to the corruption probe into state-run oil company Petrobras, known as Carwash. Both Rousseff and Lula have denied such a maneuver as well as any wrongdoing.

Out of Rousseff’s cabinet, Lula remains under the jurisdiction of federal Judge Sergio Moro, who could issue an arrest warrant against the former president at any moment. Carwash investigations continued as federal police on Tuesday carried out 15 arrest and 28 detention warrants in connection to an alleged scheme of bribes for benefits at construction conglomerate Odebrecht. On Monday, police carried out in Portugal the first international arrest related to the probe.

Millions marched in Brazil earlier this month, calling for Rousseff’s ouster and the end of corruption. Government supporters also staged rallies last Friday, with hundreds of thousands of supporters showing up to denounce a process many of them say amounts to a coup.

Brazil’s economy is expected to contract 3.5 percent this year, according to a Bloomberg survey of economists, following a 3.8 percent dive in 2015.

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