President Dilma Rousseff said Monday she is “indignant” over a congressional vote to open impeachment proceedings against her and vowed to fight what she called the injustice. She again categorically ruled out resigning.
In her first public appearance since the Chamber of Deputies voted 367—137 late Sunday to send the impeachment proceedings to the Senate for a possible trial, Brazil’s first female president appeared shaken but delivered a message of defiance.
Ms. Rousseff repeated the words “indignant,” “injustice” and “wronged” dozens of times during her news conference in the presidential palace. She also repeated her long-stated position that she hasn’t done anything illegal and is the victim of a “coup” orchestrated by her political foes.
“Today more than anything I feel wronged wronged because this process doesn’t have any legal basis,” she said. She said the feeling of being unjustly accused is among the worst sensations.
The impeachment proceedings against Rousseff are based on accusations that illegal accounting tricks by her administration allowed her to use government spending to shore up flagging support before elections.
Ms. Rousseff says previous administrations used such fiscal maneuvers without repercussions and insists the accusations are a flimsy excuse by Brazil’s traditional ruling elite to grab power back from her left—leaning Workers’ Party, which has governed for 13 years.
She slammed the impeachment effort as an act of “violence against democracy.”
“I’m not going to cowed; I won’t let myself be paralyzed by this,” Ms. Rousseff said, adding- “I have the energy, strength and courage to confront this injustice.”
Ms. Rousseff lashed out at her nemesis, Chamber of Deputies Speaker Eduardo Cunha, the driving force behind the impeachment move. As No. 2 in line to succeed Rousseff, Cunha has been charged with taking $5 million in bribes in a sprawling corruption scheme at the State-run Petrobras oil giant.
The Petrobras investigation has also implicated many other top political players, including Vice President Michel Temer, who would fill in for Ms. Rousseff if the Senate decides to put her on trial. Ms. Rousseff herself has not been implicated in the case.
“There are no bribery accusations against me, no accusations that I accepted illicit payouts. I wasn’t accused of having foreign banks accounts,” she said.
Rousseff said it was an injustice that those leading the charge against her do face such allegations. “For that reason, I feel wronged.”
Sunday’s vote plunged Brazil into further uncertainty as it struggles with the worst recession in decades and the corruption scandal while preparing to host the Olympic Games in August.
It also left the country more deeply divided than ever.
Many hold Rousseff responsible for everything from the spiralling recession to chronic high taxes and poor public services and have long rooted for her ouster. But others credit the Workers’ Party with lifting tens of millions of poor Brazilians from destitution over the past decade and they decry the impeachment process as anti—democratic.
With the impeachment documents handed over from the lower house to the Senate on Monday, Ms. Rousseff’s fight for survival will now focus on winning support in that legislative body, where an initial vote on the impeachment is expected in about around two weeks. If a majority there votes to put Ms. Rousseff on trial, she would be suspended while the vice president took over her duties.