If returned to office, Brazil's Rousseff favors new election

AP News
Posted: Jun 14, 2016 8:20 PM
If returned to office, Brazil's Rousseff favors new election

BRASILIA, Brazil (AP) — Suspended Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff said Tuesday she would favor new elections to help Latin America's largest nation emerge from a political crisis — if she is first returned to office.

In an interview with foreign news agencies, Rousseff said she must first survive an upcoming trial in which senators will decide whether to permanently remove her from office.

Rousseff said the country was experiencing a political "weariness" and that many citizens no longer believed in the process.

"This has to be overcome," she said, speaking from the Alvorada presidential palace, where she is allowed to remain while suspended. "If there needs to be new elections, I would be in favor."

Rousseff was impeached and suspended by the Senate last month for allegedly using fiscal tricks to hide yawning gaps in the federal budget. She has repeatedly denied wrongdoing, insisting the proceedings were a "fraud" and a "coup" plotted by allies turned enemies.

She has argued that many lawmakers really wanted her out so as to water down a colossal investigation into billions of dollars in kickbacks at state oil company Petrobras. In the last two years, several top politicians and businessmen have been arrested and jailed in the investigation.

Rousseff paid for it politically — much of the graft happened while her Workers' Party was in office — but she repeatedly refused to do anything that might alter a process she said Brazil badly needed.

In the hour-long interview, Rousseff floated the idea of a plebiscite on her mandate, though she didn't provide details on how it would work.

"I don't have any problem asking what the people want," said Rousseff. "In any case, the only way that a president's mandate should be interrupted is via a plebiscite."

Getting to new elections before 2018, the end of Rousseff's term, would be a tall order.

In order for that to happen, both Rousseff and interim President Michel Temer, her vice president before getting impeached, would have to resign or be removed from office.

Temer's allies have rejected growing calls from some lawmakers for new elections. Still, a series of scandals hounding his fledgling administration have led to some senators saying publicly that they might rethink their vote. Some of the scandals have included leaked recordings of Temer allies strategizing about how to tamp down the Petrobras investigation, adding to Rousseff's contention that ousting her was about that, not about sleight-of-hand accounting maneuvers.

Last month, the Senate voted 55-22 to remove Rousseff, one more vote than will be necessary during the trial to permanently remove her.

Rousseff said she spends her days strategizing with activists and friendly lawmakers about how to change senators' minds. She also said she is working on a letter of intentions to be published sometime before the impeachment trial, offering a new platform should she be returned to office.

She also said she will attend the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro if invited. While Temer is very unlikely to do that, Olympic Committee officials could invite her, though clearly it would be awkward to have two presidents on hand.

"If I am not invited, I will be watching from up a tree with binoculars," she joked.

Rousseff said she fears Temer's inexperience in office could affect the Olympic preparations.

"They let many important technocrats go," she said. Earlier on Tuesday, Temer visited Rio's Olympic Park for the first time since he became interim president.

Rousseff said she would not meet with visiting foreign leaders ahead of the Aug. 5 opening ceremonies so as not to "create any embarrassment."

Asked about the biggest mistake she made with respect to the impeachment process against her, Rousseff said she "shouldn't have made the alliances" she did, in a reference to Temer and his inner-circle.

In the only moment that her tone of voice changed during the interview, Rousseff said she is now experiencing "a deep personal sadness and a sadness for Brazil" because of the impeachment trial against her.

"It is hard to be elected with 54 million votes, feel unfairly treated and not feel like that," she said.