Brazil's Rousseff prepares to testify at impeachment hearing

She will defend herself in person on Monday against hostile senators seeking to impeach her for what they say were illegal state accounting maneuvers

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

A person waves a Brazilian flag at a camp in support of Brazil's suspended President Dilma Rousseff, in Brasilia, Brazil, August 28, 2016.

Supporters of Brazil's suspended president Dilma Rousseff rallied Sunday as she prepared for her dramatic last stand at an impeachment trial expected to see her fired within days.

The first small street rallies began in the capital as Brazil headed for the last dramatic act in a political drama that is expected to end 13 years of leftist rule in the huge recession-stricken country.

Rousseff, 68, will defend herself in person on Monday against hostile senators seeking to impeach her for what they say were illegal state accounting maneuvers. She is accused of having taken illegal state loans to patch budget holes.

Momentum to push her out is also fueled by deep anger at Brazil's historic recession, political paralysis and a vast corruption scandal centered on state oil giant Petrobras.

Senators will then vote on whether to remove her from office for good. That move is expected on Tuesday or Wednesday.

Senate's plenary during the third day of the Senate impeachment trial of Brazilian suspended President Dilma Rousseff at the National Congress in Brasilia on August 27, 2016. AFP

Rousseff and her supporters deny she broke the law and brand the impeachment a "coup" by her conservative rivals. Those include the man set to replace her, former vice-president and interim head of state Michel Temer.

Even Rousseff's supporters admit she stands little chance of avoiding being ejected from office this week. Media calculate that a majority of senators will vote to impeach.

About 250 supporters of the leftist leader gathered on Sunday in the hot sun beside the Mane Garrincha football stadium in the capital Brasilia.

They waved flags and banners reading "Temer out" and "Dilma is our president."

Millions of people voted for Rousseff's Workers' Party (PT) in the past four elections. But the small group rallying on the eve of her Senate appearance reflected how far the party has fallen.

"We have to be here actively supporting the president. This is a coup," said Ricardo Machado, 55, a union activist in a bright red t-shirt.

"The president must come back and finish her four-year mandate," he said.

"This does not mean we are not critical of the PT or of Dilma, but now is the time to fight and support her. No to the coup."

Fighting to the end

Organizers were expecting about 2,000 more demonstrators to flock from Sunday evening to the stadium, where they have set up a protest camp.

That is still a fraction of the numbers that the party was able to mobilize in its support in the past.

The protesters said they plan to rally near the Senate on Monday morning when Rousseff comes to speak in her defense.

Protesters supporting suspended President Dilma Rousseff and against her impeachment protest in Brasilia, on August 28, 2016.

Her appearance is scheduled for around 11:30 GMT, after which she may face questions from senators, and the ensuing vote.

Her supporters say they plan to keep demonstrating throughout the coming days' sessions.

"I don't know whether we will be able to reverse this, but I will be there supporting her until the end," said Carolina Modesto, a 38-year-old social worker.

Protests for and against Rousseff broke out during previous steps in the impeachment process over recent months.

A metal barrier has been erected to protect the Senate and separate rival demonstrators.