Brazil’s Rousseff says will ‘never resign’ as crisis deepens

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff says she will ‘never resign’ and calls opposition’s impeachment efforts as ‘coup’

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff speaks during a meeting with jurists at Planalto Palace in Brasilia, Brazil, March 22, 2016

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff said on Tuesday that she had committed no crime and will “never resign” as the scandal threatening her government escalated with dozens of new arrests.

"I will never resign under any circumstances," the president said. "I have committed no crime that would warrant shortening my term."

Opposition parties have launched impeachment proceedings against Rousseff for allegedly manipulating the government's accounts for her re-election campaign in 2014, which she called a “coup against democracy.”

She called on Brazil's Supreme Court to remain impartial in the crisis.

The probe of multi-billion dollar corruption charges centered on state oil company Petrobras started two years ago and has put top executives and political leaders in prison.

Brazilian federal police staged raids in nine states across the country to execute 43 arrest warrants or temporary detention orders.

Demonstrators outside the Planalto Palace, the seat of the Brazilian government, protest against the administration of President Dilma Rousseff and in support of Judge Sergio Moro, who is leading anti-corruption investigation, Brasilia, March 21, 2016

Lula’s appointment

Last week Rousseff appointed her predecessor Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, one of Brazil's most influential politicians, as her minister in an effort to fight impeachment and win back working-class supporters amid the worst economic recession in decades.

Lula is also being investigated in the Petrobras corruption scandal, which led Brazilian judges to disagree on whether to strip him of ministerial role.

Supreme Court Justice Gilmar Mendes has blocked Lula from taking office and ordered that the corruption case against him be handled by Judge Sergio Moro, who oversees the Petrobras investigation.

But late on Tuesday, a fellow judge, Teori Zavascki, questioned Moro's decision to publicise the wire tapped conversation involving a president of the country -between Rousseff and Lula-, and ordered the Lula case returned to the top court's jurisdiction.

"Lula is currently a minister. He just can't exercise his position," Attorney General Jose Eduardo Cardozo said, seeking to overturn the ruling that barred the former president.

A woman poses next to an image of former Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva as she takes part in a demonstration supporting President Dilma Rousseff's appointment of Lula as her chief of staff, in Sao Paulo, Brazil, March 18, 2016.

More revelations to come

The news came as the team of investigators in the probe on Tuesday uncovered systematic corruption at Odebrecht, the engineering firm at the heart of Brazil's biggest ever graft probe, with an office to pay bribes on work for 2014 World Cup soccer stadiums and Olympics legacy projects.

Prosecutor Carlos dos Santos Lima said the investigation "is going to touch other areas besides the oil sector."

"A lot of things are going to be discovered," he told a press conference.

Yet Alicia Barcena, the head of a UN panel for the region, the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean warned that the crisis is threatening the "democratic stability" of Brazil.

Executives of Odebrecht SA, are escorted by federal police officers during their transfer to Curitiba city as they leave the Federal Police headquarter in Sao Paulo, Brazil, March 22, 2016

Opposition quests

There are media reports that the opposition is preparing for a post-Rousseff future.

Growing numbers of lawmakers in the centrist Brazilian Democratic Movement Party (PMDB), which is Rousseff’s main coalition partner, want the party to leave her government.

PMDB will hold an executive committee meeting on March 29, and a possible decision to vote on an impeachment would put Vice President Michel Temer, leader of the party, in the presidential seat.

Aecio Neves, the leader of the Brazilian Social Democracy Party (PSDB), who narrowly lost the 2014 election to Rousseff, met Monday with Temer, the next in line for the presidency.

Brazil's Vice President Michel Temer (2nd R) gestures during the Brazilian Democratic Movement Party (PMDB) national convention in Brasilia, Brazil, March 12, 2016

"If an impeachment is approved, we'll be ready to help draft an emergency plan" for a transitional government, Neves said.

PMDB officials denied media reports that Temer is preparing a post-Rousseff government.

Rousseff also struggles with large street protests demanding her resignation, and recent pollsters show 86 percent of Brazilians are in favor of the impeachment.

TRTWorld and agencies