The president of Brazil Dilma Rousseff, was on Monday (29) in the Brazilian Senate for more than 14 hours, personally defending herself from a supposed crime of responsibility. In her opening speech, she denied the crimes alleged against her and declared, “I would never attempt against what I believe in or practice actions that went counter to the interests of those who have elected me”. Read below:
Your Excellency Chief Justice of the Supreme Federal Court Ricardo Lewandowski,
Your Excellency President of the Federal Senate Renan Calheiros,
Your Excellencies (Senators),
Women and Men Citizens of my beloved Brazil,
On January 1, 2015 I assumed my second term as President of the Federative Republic of Brazil. I was elected by more than 54 million votes.
At my inauguration I pledged to uphold, defend and abide by the Constitution as well as comply with the law, promote the general well being of the Brazilian people, sustain the union, the integrity, and independence of Brazil.
Upon exercising the Presidency of the Republic I faithfully respected the pledge I made before the nation and those who elected me. And I am proud of that. I have always believed in democracy and the rule of law, and have always viewed the 1988 Constitution as one of our people’s great accomplishments.
I would never attempt against what I believe in or practice actions that went counter to the interests of those who have elected me. While on this journey to defend myself from the impeachment, I got further closer to the people and had the chance to hear their acknowledgment, to receive their affection. I have also heard strong criticisms against my administration, the mistakes committed, and the measures and policies that were not adopted. I humbly accept these criticisms.
Not least, because like everyone, I have my flaws and commit mistakes.
Among my flaws are not disloyalty and cowardice. I do not betray the pledges I make, the principles I stand for, or those who fight by my side. In the fight against the dictatorship, my body has received the marks of torture. For years I endured the suffering for imprisonment. I saw brothers and sisters being raped, even murdered.
At the time, I was very young. I had much to expect from life. I was afraid of death, of the sequelae of torture on my body and soul. But I did not cave in. I resisted. I resisted against the terror storm that had started to engulf me, in the darkness of the bitter times the country went through. I did not change sides. In spite of having to carry the burden of injustice on my shoulders, I kept on fighting for democracy.
I have dedicated all these years of my life to the struggle for a society without hatred and intolerance. I have fought for a society free from prejudice and discrimination. I have fought for a society where there was no poverty or excluded people. I have fought for a sovereign Brazil, in which there was more equality and justice.
I take pride in that. When one believes, one fights.
At nearly seventy years of age, it would not be now, after becoming a mother and a grandmother, that I would abdicate the principles that have always guided me.
Exercising the Presidency of the Republic, I have honored the pledge I made to my country, to Democracy, to the Rule of Law. I have been intransigent in defense of honesty in the management of public things. That is why, in face of the accusations I am charged with in this process, I cannot help feeling, again, in my mouth the rough and bitter taste of injustice and arbitrariness.
And that is why, as in the past, I resist.
Do not expect from me the obsequious silence of the cowards. In the past, with arms, and today, with legal rhetoric, once again Democracy and the Rule of Law are being attempted against.
If some renege on their past and bargain for the largesse of the present, may they answer before their consciences and before history for their actions. I can only regret for what they used to be and for what they have become.
And resist. Always resist. Resist to awaken the consciences that are still asleep so that, together, we may set foot on the ground that is on the right side of history, even if the earth shakes and threatens to engulf us again.
I do not fight for my office or for vanity or for some attachment to power, as befits those who have no character, principles, or utopias to conquer. I fight for democracy, for truth, and for justice. I fight for the people of my Country, for their well-being.
Many today ask me where my energy to proceed comes from. It comes from what I believe in. I can look back and see all we have done. Look ahead and see all we still need to do and can do. Most importantly, I can look at myself and see the face of someone who, though marked by time, has the strength to defend her ideas and her rights.
I know that soon, and once again in my life, I will be judged. And it is because my conscience is absolutely tranquil in relation to what I have done, in the exercise of the Presidency of the Republic, that I come in person before those who will judge me. I come to see straight in the eyes of Your Excellencies and say, with the serenity of those who have nothing to hide, that I have not committed any crime of responsibility. I have not committed the offenses I am being unfairly and arbitrarily charged with.
Today, Brazil, the world, and history watch us and await the outcome of this impeachment proceeding.
Last year in Latin America and Brazil, whenever the interests of the sectors of the economic and political elite are hurt by the polls, and there were no legal reasons for a legitimate removal conspiracies were plotted that resulted in coups d’état. President Getúlio Vargas, who left us the CLT [labor code] and the defense of the national wealth, was relentlessly persecuted; the heinous plot orchestrated by the so-called República do Galeão, which led to his suicide.
President Juscelino Kubitscheck, who built this city, was victim of constant and failed coup attempts, as what took place in the Aragarças episode.
President João Goulart, a champion of democracy, workers’ rights, and Reformas de Base, managed to prevail against the parliamentary coup, but was removed and the military dictatorship was established in 1964. For 20 years, we lived the silence imposed by arbitrariness, and democracy was swept away from our country. Millions of Brazilians fought and won back the right to direct elections.
Today, as the interests of sectors of the political and economic elite are rejected by the polls, once again we see ourselves facing the risk of democratic disruption. The political standards prevailing in the world repel explicit violence. Now, democratic disruption takes place by means of moral violence and constitutional pretexts so as to lend an appearance of legitimacy to the government that is assuming without the backing of the polls. The Constitution is invoked so that the world of appearances may hypocritically conceal the world of facts.
The evidence submitted renders it clear and undisputable that the charges against me are mere pretexts, based on weak legal rhetoric. In the last days, new facts have shed light on another aspect of the plot that characterizes this impeachment process. The petitioner who filed the charges being discussed in this process with the Federal Court of Accounts (TCU) was admitted as a suspect by the Chief Justice of the Federal Supreme Court. We have also learned, from the testimony by the auditor in charge of the technical report, that he had helped draft the same petition he came to audit. The bias, the plot, is clear in the construction of the theses he defends.
They are pretexts, just pretexts to overthrow, by means of an impeachment proceeding without any crime of responsibility, a legitimate government, chosen in a direct election with a turnout of 110 million Brazilian men and women. The government of a woman who dared to win two consecutive presidential elections.
They are pretexts to enable a coup against the Constitution. A coup that, if carried out, will result in the indirect election of a usurping government.
The indirect election of a government that, still during its interim period, has no women heading its ministries, when the people, in the polls, chose a woman to head the country. A government that can do without blacks in the composition of its cabinet and has already shown utter contempt for the platform chosen by the people in 2014.
I was elected president by 54 and a half million votes to carry out a program whose synthesis is recorded in the words “not a single right less”.
What is at stake in the impeachment process is not only my term. What is at stake is respect for the polls, the sovereign will of the Brazilian people, and the Constitution.
What is at stake are the accomplishments of the last 13 years: the gains of the population, of the poorest people and the middle class; children protection; the youth getting to university and technical schools; the valuing of the minimum wage; doctors treating the population; making the one’s-own-house dream come true.
What is at stake is the investment in works that may ensure coexisting with droughts in the semi-arid, is the conclusion of the dreamt-of and long-awaited São Francisco integration process. What is at stake is, too, the great discovery in Brazil, the pre-salt [oil reserves].What is at stake is the sovereign participation of our country in the international arena, guided by ethics and the pursuit of common interests.
What is at stake is the self-esteem of the Brazilian men and women, who have resisted against the attacks by the pessimists on duty regarding the country’s capacity of, successfully, hosting the World Cup and the Olympics and the Paralympics.
What is at stake is the accomplishment of stability, which seeks fiscal balance but will not give up social programs for our population.
What is at stake is the future of our country, the opportunity and hope of further moving forward.
In the presidentialism as laid down in our Constitution, it does not suffice to lose a majority in parliament to remove a president. There must be a crime of responsibility. And it is plain clear that there was no such crime. It is not legitimate, as claimed by my accusers, to remove the head of State and government due to “the body of work”. Those who may remove the president for “the body of work” are the people, and only the people, in elections. And, in the elections, the winning government platform was not this one now being tried out and designed by the interim government and defended by my accusers.
What the interim government seeks, if transmuted into incumbent, is a veritable attack against the accomplishments of the past years.
Delinking retirement payments and pensions from the minimum wage will be the destruction of the country’s biggest income distribution tool, which is the Social Security. The result will be even more poverty, more child mortality, and the decadence of the small municipalities.
Reviewing the rights and guarantees in the CLT labor code and prohibiting withdrawals from severance fund FGTS upon dismissal of a worker are the threats hanging above the Brazilian people should the impeachment without crime of responsibility prevail.
Important accomplishments for women, blacks, and LGBT communities are compromised by submission to ultraconservative principles.
Our wealth will be at stake, with the resources of the pre-salt, with natural and mineral riches being privatized.
The most frightening threat in this impeachment process without crime of responsibility is to freeze, for an unbelievable 20-year-long period, expenses with health, education, sanitation, housing. For 20 years keeping more children, teenagers, and young adults from having access to schools; for 20 years people from getting better health care; for 20 years, families from dreaming of owning their own house.
Mr. Chief Justice Ricardo Lewandowski and Senators,
The truth is that the 2014 electoral result was a terrible blow against sectors of the Brazilian conservative elite.
Since the announcement of the electoral results, the parties supporting the candidate defeated in the elections stopped at nothing to keep me from being sworn in and my administration from attaining stability. They said the elections had been rigged, requested that the voting machines be audited, challenged my campaign accounts, and after my inauguration, relentlessly searched for any fact that might rhetorically justify an impeachment process.
As is typical of conservative and authoritarian elites, they would not see in the people’s will a government’s legitimizing element. They wanted power at any price.
They did everything to destabilize me and my government.
It is only possible to understand the seriousness of the crisis that has befallen Brazil since 2015, taking into consideration the acute political crisis that, since my reelection, has characterized the environment in which investment and the production of goods and services takes place.
No one sought to discuss and approve a better proposal for the country. What was permanently intended was the affirmation of “the worse, the better”, in the obsessive pursuit of undermining the government, with no care given to the harmful outcomes of such questionable political action for the whole of the population.
The prospect of an impeachment became the central theme of the political and journalistic agenda only two months after my reelection, in spite of the evident lack of basis that would justify this radical move.
In this environment of turbulence and uncertainty, the permanent political risk caused by the activism of a sizable portion of the opposition ultimately became a key element in the slowing down of investment and the deepening of the economic crisis.
It must also be underscored that the pursuit of fiscal balance, since 2015, has met with strong resistance in the Chamber of Deputies, at the time presided over by Deputy Eduardo Cunha. The bills sent by the government were rejected, partially or wholly. Negative agendas, the pautas bomba, were submitted and some of them approved.
The Chamber’s standing committees, in 2016, only started working as from May 5, one week before the acceptance of the impeachment proceeding by the Federal Senate Commission. The Senators know that the functioning of these Commissions was and is absolutely indispensable for the approval of matters that interfere in the fiscal setting and in establishing a way out of the crisis.
The desired political instability setting was thus established, favoring the opening of an impeachment process without crime of responsibility.
Without these actions, today Brazil would certainly be in a different political, economic, and fiscal situation.
Many voiced and voted against proposals they had defended all their lives, without thinking about the consequences their gestures would entail to the country and the Brazilian people. They wanted to take advantage of the economic crisis because they knew that once my administration managed to rein it in, their aspiration of access to power would likely be buried for yet a longer period of time.
However, in truth the opposition forces only managed to succeed in their intent when another powerful political force joined them: the political force of those who wanted to avoid the continuity of the “bleeding” of sectors of the Brazilian political class, brought about by the investigations of corruption and diversion of public money.
It is widely known that during my government and that of President Lula every condition was given for these investigations to be carried out. We proposed important laws that endowed the competent bodies with the conditions to investigate and punish those found guilty.
I have assured the autonomy of the Office of the Prosecutor by appointing as Prosecutor General of the Republic the first name on the list submitted by the members of that institution themselves. I have not allowed any political interference in the activities of the Federal Police.
With my attitude, I went against many interests and, for the position I took, I have paid and am paying a high personal price.
They have planned my removal, regardless of the existence of any facts that could justify it in light of our Constitution. They have found in the person of the former President of the Chamber of Deputies, Eduardo Cunha, the vertex of their coup-driven alliance.
They have planned and succeeded in eliminating the government’s legislative majority. Situations were created, with the overt support of sectors of the media, to build up the political environment required to deconstruct the electoral result of 2014.
Everyone knows that this impeachment process was started by the “outright blackmail” of former President of the Chamber Eduardo Cunha, as one of the denouncers came to recognize in statements to the press. That lawmaker was demanding that I intervened so that members of my party would vote against starting his impeachment process.
I have never accepted threats or blackmail in my life. If I have not done it before, I would not do that in the capacity of President of the Republic. It is a fact, however, that not having bowed to this blackmail was the motive for accepting the crime of responsibility petition and the start of this proceeding, under the applause of those defeated in 2014 and those who feared the investigations.
Had I become an accomplice in improbity and the worst there is in Brazilian politics, as many today seem not to have any shame in doing, I would not be running the risk of being unfairly convicted.
Those who become accomplices in the immoral and the unlawful, has no respectability to govern Brazil. Those who act to spare or postpone the judgment of a person that is charged of enriching himself at the expense of the Brazilian State and the people who pay their taxes, sooner or later, will end up paying before society and history the price for their lack of commitment to ethics.
Everyone knows I have not enriched myself in the holding of public offices, that I have not diverted public money to my own benefit, or that of my relatives, and that I do not hold accounts or estate abroad. I have always acted with complete probity in the public offices I have held throughout my life.
Curiously, I will be judged, by crimes I have not committed, before the former President of the Chamber, who is accused of having practiced very serious illegal actions and who has led the plots and ruses that have underpinned the actions designed to remove me.
Irony of history? No, not at all. This is a deliberate action that relies on the accomplice silence of sectors of the Brazilian media.
Democracy is violated and an innocent is punished. This is the backdrop that marks the judgment that will be held by the will of those who cast unfounded accusatory pretexts against me.
We are one step away from consummating a serious institutional disruption. We are one step away from a veritable coup d’état.
Let us go to the case records. What am I charged with? What were the attempts against the Constitution I have committed? What were the heinous crimes I have practiced?
The first accusation refers to the issuing of three executive orders for supplementary credit without legislative authorization. Throughout this process, we have shown that the issuance of such orders followed each and every legal rule. We have respected the provision set forth in the Constitution, the goal established in the Budgetary Law (LDO), and the authorizations provided for in article 4 of the 2015 Budgetary Law, approved by the National Congress.
All these legal provisions were complied with as regards the three orders. They simply offered alternatives to the allocation of the same limits, apportionment and financial, established by the executive orders setting expenditure limits, which were not modified. Hence, they have absolutely not affected the fiscal target.
Moreover, since 2014, by initiative of the Executive, Congress approved to make it mandatory to include in the Budgetary Law that any credit extended must have its execution subordinated to the expenditure limitation decree (decreto de contingenciamento), issued in conformity with the rules established by the Fiscal Responsibility Law. And that was precisely respected.
I do not know whether it was incomprehension or strategy, but the accusations made in this process seek to attribute our fiscal problems to these decrees. They ignore or conceal that our fiscal results are the consequence of the economic slowdown and not its cause.
They conceal that, in 2015, with the worsening of the crisis, we had a major fall in income throughout that year – this was R$ 180 billion less than forecast in the Budgetary Law.
They make a point of ignoring that, in 2015, we set the highest expenditure limitation in our history. They argue that, when I sent the request for authorization to reduce the fiscal target to the National Congress in July 2015, I should have immediately established another expenditure limitation. I did not do that because I followed the procedure that was not questioned by the Federal Court of Accounts or by the National Congress in analyzing the 2009 accounts.
Furthermore, responsibility towards the population also justifies our decision. If, in July, we had applied the expenditure limitation proposed by our accusers, we would have cut 96% of the total resources available for Union expenditures. This would represent a radical cut in every budgetary endowment of the federal bodies. Ministries would stop, universities would close their doors, the Mais Médicos health program would be interrupted, the procurement of medication would be harmed, regulatory agencies would stop working. Actually, in budgetary terms 2015 would have ended in July.
I say it again: by issuing these supplementary credit orders, I acted in full compliance with the legislation in effect. Not one of these acts disrespected the National Congress. As a matter of fact, this was the behavior I adopted in both my terms.
It was only after I signed these orders that the Federal Court of Accounts changed the position it had always had on the subject. It is important that the Brazilian population be clarified about this point: the orders were issued in July and August 2015 and only in October 2015 did the Federal Court of Accounts approve the new interpretation.
The Federal Court of Accounts recommended the approval of the accounts of all the presidents who issued orders identical to the ones I issued. They had never raised any technical problem or had had the interpretation they came to have after I signed these orders.
Am I to be condemned for having signed orders that met the needs of several agencies, including the Judiciary Branch itself, on the basis of the same procedure adopted since the Fiscal Responsibility Law came into effect in 2001?
For having signed orders that, added together, have not entailed, as proved in the records, not a single cent of extra expenditure that might have harmed the fiscal target?
The second charge against me in this process is also unfair and fragile. It is stated that the alleged delay in the payment of economic subsidies owed to the Bank of Brazil, concerning the execution of farm credit program Plano Safra, is equivalent to a “credit operation”, which is forbidden by the Fiscal Responsibility Law.
As my defense and several witnesses have already stated, the execution of Plano Safra is governed by a 1992 bill that assigns to the Ministry of Finance the competence for its regulation, including in relation to the role of the Bank of Brazil. The President of the Republic does not practice any act whatsoever in the execution of Plano Safra. It seems obvious, in addition to legally fair, that I should not be accused of a nonexistent action.
The controversy as to the existence of the credit operation arose from a change in the interpretation of the Federal Court of Accounts, whose definitive ruling was issued in December 2015. Once again, there is an attempt to say that I committed a crime before the definition of the thesis establishing the crime. A thesis that had never arisen before and that, as all of you Senators have learned in recent days, was especially machinated for this occasion.
I would also like to remind you of the recent decision by the Office of the Federal Prosecutor, who dismissed an inquest on this exact same issue. He stated there was no ground for claiming there was an offense against the Fiscal Responsibility Law because occasional delays in the payment of contracts for the delivery of services between the Union and public financial institutions are not credit operations.
I insist, dear Senators: it is not me or my defense who make these allegations. It is the Federal Office of the Prosecutor who has refused to continue the process for lack of crime.
On the change in interpretation by the Federal Court of Accounts, I remind you that, even before the final decision, I acted preventively. I requested authorization to the National Congress to pay the liabilities and established by executive order the calendar for the payment of the subsidies due. In December 2015, after the Federal Court of Accounts’ final ruling and with authorization by the Congress, we paid off all the existing debts.
It cannot be that, here too, one cannot see the arbitrariness of this process as well as the injustice of this accusation.
This impeachment process is not legitimate. I have not attempted, absolutely not, against any of the provisions in the Constitution that, as President of the Republic, I have sworn to abide by. I have not practiced any unlawful action. It has been proven that I have not intentionally acted in anything. The actions taken were entirely devoted to the interests of society. They have not injured the treasury or public finances. I state again, as has done my defense all this time, that this process is marred, from beginning to end, by a clamorous misuse of power. Only this can explain the absolute weakness of the accusations directed at me. It has been stated that this impeachment process is legitimate because canons and deadlines have been complied with. However, for justice to be made and democracy to prevail, the form alone will not suffice. It is imperative that the content of a sentence also be fair. And in the case, there will never be justice in my condemnation.
I dare to say that at several moments this process has clamorously deviated from that which the Constitution and the jurists call “due process of law”.
There is no respect for due process of law when the condemning opinion of great part of those judging is released and reported by the big press, before the final exercise of the right to defense.
There is no respect for due process of law when those judging state that condemnation is just a matter of time because they will vote against me anyway.
In this case, the right to defense will be exercised only formally, but will not be appreciated substantively in its arguments and proofs. The form will only exist to lend an appearance of legitimacy to that which is illegitimate in essence.
These months, I was asked several times why not to resign, to shorten such a difficult chapter of my life.
I would never do that because I have an uncompromising commitment to the Democratic Rule of Law.
I would never do that because I never give up a fight.
I admit to Your Excellencies, however, that the betrayal, the verbal aggressions, and the violence of prejudice have overwhelmed me and, at times, even hurt me. Yet these were far outweighed by the solidarity, the support, and the readiness to fight of millions of Brazilian women and men across the country. By means of street rallies, meetings, seminars, books, shows, mobilizations on the internet, our people were all creativity and stamina to fight against the coup.
Over this period, the Brazilian women have been a fundamental bulwark for my resistance. They have covered me in flowers and protected me with their solidarity. Indefatigable partners in a battle where misogyny and prejudice have shown their claws, the Brazilian women have expressed, in this combat for democracy and rights, their strength and resilience. Courageous Brazilian women, whom I have the honor and duty of representing as the first female President of Brazil.
I get to this stage of this process committed to fulfilling a demand by the majority of the Brazilians: call them to decide, in the polls, about the future of our country. Dialogue, participation, and direct and free vote are the nest weapons we have for the preservation of democracy.
I trust that Your Excellencies will make justice. My mind is at peace. I have not committed any crime of responsibility. The accusations directed at me are unfair and improper. To definitively impeach my term is like sentencing me to political death.
This is the second trial I am submitted to in which democracy takes seat, with me, on the defendant’s bench. The first time, I was convicted by a junta court. From that time, besides the painful marks of torture, my presence was registered, in a photo, before my tormentors, at a moment when I was looking at them with head held high while they hid their faces, afraid of being recognized and judged by history.
Today, four decades on, there is no illegal arrest, there is no torture, those judging me got here by the same vote of the people that led me to the Presidency. I have the greatest respect for all of you, but my head is still high, looking in the eyes of those who are to judge me.
Despite the differences, I suffer again with the feeling of injustice and the fear that, once again, democracy is to be sentenced with me. And I have no doubt that, this time too, we will all be judged by history.
Twice have I seen the face of death: when I was tortured for days on end, submitted to ill-treatment that makes us wonder about humanity and the sense of life itself; and when a serious and extremely painful disease could have abbreviated my existence.
Today I only fear for the death of democracy, for which many of us in this plenary room have fought with our best efforts.
I reaffirm: I respect those judging me. I do not hold any rancor for those who will vote for my removal. I respect and am particularly fond of those who have fought so fiercely for my acquittal, to whom I will be eternally grateful.
This moment I would like to address those Senators who, though opposing me and my government, are undecided.
Remember that, in the presidential regime and under the aegis of our Constitution, a political condemnation mandatorily requires the occurrence of a crime of responsibility, willingly committed and fully proven.
Remember the terrible precedent this decision might open to other presidents, governors, and mayors. Condemning without substantial evidence. Condemning an innocent.
I make a final appeal to all of you, Senators: do not accept a coup that, rather than solving, will worsen the Brazilian crisis.
I ask you to make justice to an honest president, who has never committed any wrongdoing, in her personal life in the public offices she held. Vote without resentment. What each Senator feels for me and what we feel for each other matters less, at this moment, than what we all feel for the country and the Brazilian people.
I ask you: vote against the impeachment. Vote for democracy.
Thank you very much.
Source: PT / RedGlobe