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Brazil’s Rousseff to take stand at impeachment trial

Suspended president Dilma Rousseff will take the stand to defend herself at her impeachment trial in the Senate

Published: Updated:

Brazil’s suspended president Dilma Rousseff will take the stand to defend herself at her impeachment trial in the Senate, an aide said Wednesday, setting up a dramatic showdown with her accusers.

Rousseff, who is accused of fiddling the national budget to make Brazil’s tanking economy look better, will be allotted time to testify on August 29, said the chief justice of the Supreme Court, Ricardo Lewandowski, who will preside over the trial.

A spokesman for the suspended leftist leader confirmed she would defend herself in person.

“She’ll be there,” he told AFP.

Rousseff, Brazil’s first woman president, accuses her opponents of trumping up the charges against her to remove her in a “coup.”

A demonstrator holds a sign that reads ‘You bankrupted my country, prison’ during a protest demanding Rousseff’s impeachment, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (AP)
A demonstrator holds a sign that reads ‘You bankrupted my country, prison’ during a protest demanding Rousseff’s impeachment, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (AP)

But she looks almost certain to lose the final vote in the Senate, ending 13 years of rule by the leftist Workers’ Party.

The trial is due to open on Thursday, August 25, four days after the Olympic Games end in Rio de Janeiro.

Senate president Renan Calheiros said the vote would likely take place on August 30, the day after Rousseff testifies.

The trial will start with procedural matters, followed by witness testimony, according to the schedule set down by Lewandowski and Calheiros.

The prosecution plans to call two witnesses and the defense four. They will answer questions from Lewandowski, from senators and from lawyers for both sides.

Questioning is expected to run through Friday, August 26, but could stretch through the weekend, Lewandowski said.

After that, Rousseff will have 30 minutes to speak, then face questioning.

Protesters take part in a demonstration to demand the ouster of suspended President Dilma Rousseff in Sao Paulo, Brazil. (Reuters)
Protesters take part in a demonstration to demand the ouster of suspended President Dilma Rousseff in Sao Paulo, Brazil. (Reuters)

The Senate will then debate her fate. Each senator will have 10 minutes to speak, followed by closing statements from the lawyers.

As has been the case at each stage of the nine-month impeachment battle, marathon sessions are likely.

Lewandowski acknowledged the timeline was tentative.

“There’s no deadline to finish,” he said.

Rousseff, a former leftist guerrilla who was imprisoned and tortured under Brazil’s military regime in the 1970s, said she was ready for whatever mud her enemies in the Senate might sling.

“I’ve never been afraid of that. I’ve endured much worse tension in my life. This is an exercise in democracy,” she told the newspaper Folha de Sao Paulo.

On Tuesday, Rousseff, 68, read out a letter to the Brazilian people admitting she had made mistakes but proclaiming her innocence.

The suspended president’s popularity has plunged amid Brazil’s worst recession in 80 years and an explosive corruption scandal centered on state oil giant Petrobras.

Rousseff has not been directly accused in the corruption probe, which is separate from the impeachment case. But the Supreme Court has now opened an investigation into charges that she obstructed justice.