Rousseff prepares to testify at Brazil impeachment hearing

President who was suspended in May is scheduled to testify before hostile Senate

Brazil’s suspended president Dilma Rousseff will make her last stand this week. Photograph: Andressa Anholete/AFP/Getty Images

Brazil’s suspended president Dilma Rousseff will make her last stand this week. Photograph: Andressa Anholete/AFP/Getty Images

 

Brazil’s impeachment battle is set to reach a dramatic climax this week as the country’s first female president, Dilma Rousseff, makes a last stand before a hostile and corruption-plagued Senate.

The Workers party leader, who was suspended from the presidency in May, is scheduled to testify in her own defence on Monday morning, a day or two before the upper house is expected to vote for her permanent ejection from office for alleged fiscal irregularities.

The final face-to-face encounter between accusers and accused comes after a period of protracted political turmoil that cast a shadow over the Olympics, stirred up massive street protests and worsened the recession plaguing Latin America’s biggest economy.

Escalating what has already proved a rowdy political trial, Rousseff will be grilled by opponents from the centre-right coalition of interim president, Michel Temer, a former running mate from the Brazilian Democratic Movement party (PMDB) who conspired to seize power less than half the way through her mandate and now hopes to retain the presidency until at least the next election in 2018.

‘Anti-democratic parasites’

The last president to be impeached – Fernando Collor de Mello in 1992 – resigned rather than face a final vote. But Rousseff, a former Marxist guerrilla who was tortured during the military dictatorship, has vowed to fight to the end.

“The only thing that kills anti-democratic parasites is the oxygen of debate,” she told supporters last week.

Impeachment supporters believe a final vote – which is expected to be passed by the necessary two-thirds majority of the 81 senators on Tuesday or Wednesday – will provide catharsis and allow Temer’s administration to plot a new course for the nation.

Opponents say it is the culmination of a constitutional coup to end 13 years of Workers party rule, runs roughshod over the democratic choice of the 54 million voters who reelected Rousseff in 2014, reverses progress towards gender and ethnic equality and is part of a plot to curtail the “Lava Jato” (Car Wash) corruption investigation that has implicated dozens of senior politicians.

The numbers are against the president. At the start of the senate impeachment process in May, Rousseff was defeated by 55 votes to 22, which was just one above the 54 that will be needed in the final vote. Newspaper forecasts suggest there has been little progress since then in swaying senators to switch sides, but Rousseff’s supporters have not given up hope of a last-minute reprieve and promise to fight to the end.

“There will be a very strong debate because all sides are tense,” senator Vanessa Grazziotin, told local media in a warning that Rousseff’s supporters in the upper house would not let the president go quietly “like a lamb to the slaughter”.

– (Guardian service)