Rousseff Offers Rare Mea Culpa on Eve of Brazil Impeachment Vote

  • Suspended president says Temer as VP was main political error
  • Says tax cuts for businesses were an economic mistake

Dilma Rousseff.

Photographer: Jason Alden/Bloomberg

Dilma Rousseff offered an uncommon mea culpa just days before she faces an impeachment trial, saying she made mistakes in choosing a running mate who turned against her and in adopting tax policies, which helped erode public finances.

Rousseff, 68, said her biggest political mistake was choosing as vice president Michel Temer, a constitutional lawyer who she now accuses of leading the push to topple her government through impeachment. Tax breaks that cost hundreds of billions of reais didn’t manage to prevent Brazil’s economic downturn on her watch, she said.

“The reduction of taxes for businesses didn’t result in gains for the whole economy,” she told foreign correspondents in Brasilia. “We weren’t able to transform those tax cuts into increased investments and demand.”

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Rousseff has admitted generically to mistakes in the past but rarely identified specific policies that went wrong. Two days ago she sent a letter to the Senate in which she said "errors were committed,” but maintained that the impeachment process against her is an illegal coup. The Senate suspended her from office in May when it voted to open impeachment proceedings on allegations she illegally financed government spending.

Corruption Allegations

Rousseff also blamed many of the difficulties she faced in approving her legislative agenda on centrist parties under the influence of one of her main opponents, then speaker of the House Eduardo Cunha.

When asked about charges of graft facing some members of her Workers’ Party, Rousseff said her administration had put in place mechanisms allowing the investigation of systemic corruption. She said a reported probe into allegations she sought to obstruct justice is based on an unauthorized wire tap of her phone conversations.

Rousseff said she will answer questions when she appears in the Senate to present her final defense in the impeachment trial, expected on Aug. 29. Her fight, she said, is not just to preserve her mandate, but also to defend Brazil’s democracy and the voters that re-elected her in 2014.

“I expect justice,” she said.