Watch: First Interview With Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff Since the Senate’s Impeachment Vote
19 May, 2016
LAST THURSDAY, BRAZILIAN President Dilma Rousseff was suspended from the presidency when the Senate voted, 55-22, to try her on the impeachment charges, approved by the lower house, involving alleged budgetary maneuvers (“pedaladas”) designed to obscure the size of public debt. Although she nominally remains the president and continues to reside in Brasília’s presidential palace, her duties are being carried out by her vice president, Michel Temer — now “interim” President Temer — and the right-wing, corruption-tainted, all-white-male cabinet he has assembled (due to Brazil’s coalition politics, Temer is from a different party than Rousseff). Rousseff’s suspension will last up to 180 days as her Senate impeachment trial takes place, at which point she will either be acquitted or (as is widely expected) convicted and permanently removed from her office.
On Tuesday, I spoke to President Rousseff in the presidential palace for her first interview since being suspended. The 22-minute interview, conducted in Portuguese with English subtitles, is below. Rather than subdued, resigned, and defeated, Rousseff — who was imprisoned and tortured for three years in the 1970s by the U.S.-supported military dictatorship that ruled the country for 21 years — is more combative, defiant, and resolute than ever.
Since he has taken power, Temer has exacerbated the fears of those who regard impeachment as an attack on democracy or even a coup. Unlike Rousseff, he is personally implicated in corruption scandals. He was just fined for election-law violations and faces an eight-year ban on running for any office (including the one into which he was just installed). Polls show only 2 percent of Brazilians would support him in an actual election, while close to 60 percent want him impeached.
Worse, Temer created a worldwide controversy when he appointed 23 ministers, all of whom were white and male in a deeply diverse country, and one-third of whom are under suspicion in various corruption inquiries. And his government — beloved by hedge funds and Wall Street but very few other factions — has begun preparing the groundwork for a radical right-wing attack on the country’s social safety net, which could never attract the support of actual voters if it were subjected to a democratic framework. Meanwhile, as the Olympics arrive in Rio in 10 weeks, protests are breaking out all over the country and are certain to become more destabilizing and disruptive as the Temer government attempts to cut some of the most critical social programs established by Rousseff’s party (which has won four straight national elections).
I spoke with President Rousseff about all of these matters, as well as whether it is now justified for Brazilians to use civil disobedience against the government she describes as “illegitimate,” and the likely impact on international affairs and economic realignment from this extreme and undemocratic change of ideology in the world’s fifth most populous country and seventh largest economy. (Interim President Temer has not yet responded to The Intercept’s request for an interview.)
The interview can be watched on the recorder below. A full transcript appears below that.