Rousseff should be judged for crisis in Brazil, accuser says

Reuters News
Posted: Aug 28, 2016 11:02 PM

By Anthony Boadle and Lisandra Paraguassu

BRASILIA (Reuters) - Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff's accusers told her trial in the Senate on Tuesday she should be judged not only on charges of breaking budget rules but also for a sweeping corruption scandal and a deep recession that erupted on her watch.

Rousseff, who was suspended from office in May pending the trial, is accused of using money from state banks to bolster spending during her re-election campaign in 2014, a budgetary sleight of hand employed by many elected officials in Brazil.

In her testimony on Monday, Rousseff denied any wrongdoing and said the impeachment process was aimed at reversing the social gains achieved under 13 years of leftist rule and protecting the interests of the monied elites in Latin America's largest economy.

If she is convicted, as expected, her conservative former vice president, Michel Temer, will be president until the end of Rousseff's term in 2018.

In an emotional speech, she compared the trial to her persecution under Brazil's 1964-1985 military dictatorship, when she was tortured by security services as a member of a leftist urban guerrilla group.

However, lawyer Janaina Paschoal, the author of the impeachment request against Rousseff, told the Senate in her closing arguments that her trial was not merely about "accounting issues" but about the damage done to Brazil by her government.

"You might say that this is beyond the scope of the trial but this is the reality and you as senators cannot vote ignoring our reality," Paschoal said. "The world needs to know that we are not just voting about accounting issues."

A final vote in the trial, which paralyzed Brazilian politics for the last nine months, is expected on Wednesday morning, according to Supreme Court Chief Justice Ricardo Lewandowski, who is presiding over the process.

In addition to the closing arguments by Rousseff's defense and accusers, more than 60 of the chamber's 81 senators have already registered to speak in the final debate. Lewandowski said he expected to end the session late on Tuesday and resume on Wednesday morning.

The trial has become a test of Rousseff's waning popularity and her failure to build lasting political alliances.

After riding the commodities boom in her first four-year term, Rousseff's popularity has dwindled to single figures this year, partly because of a massive scandal at state oil company Petrobras and partly due to a deep recession that many Brazilians blame on her government's interventionist policies.

If the Senate convicts Rousseff, she would become the first Brazilian leader in more than 20 years to be dismissed from office.

Temer, who has been interim president since Congress opened impeachment proceedings in mid-May, has vowed to impose austerity measures to plug a growing fiscal deficit that cost Brazil its investment-grade credit rating last year.

Temer is so confident of the trial's outcome that he has planned an address to the nation on Wednesday before heading to China to attend the summit of the G20 group of leading economies in search of trade and investment to revive Brazil's economy.

(Reporting by Anthony Boadle and Lisandra Paraguassu; Editing by Tom Brown; Writing by Daniel Flynn; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Tom Brown)