NEW: Acting President Michel Temer says Brazil's leaders must regain trust
"I'm the victim of a great injustice," Rousseff tells supporters
55 of 81 senators vote to begin impeachment trial against Rousseff
Suspended Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff didn’t mince words as she began the fight of her political life Thursday.
“It’s a coup,” she told reporters, speaking publicly for the first time since senators voted to begin an impeachment trial against her.
It took Brazil’s Senate about 20 hours of debate to reach a decisive result early Thursday: The country’s first female President must step aside while the trial gets underway.
It took Rousseff less than an hour to make two speeches slamming the vote: One to reporters inside the presidential palace and one to crowds outside after she was kicked out.
“I’m the victim of a great injustice,” Rousseff told cheering supporters.
She delivered a fiery speech from a podium set up outside, stopping several times to ask people around her to move so she could see the crowd.
She shook hands with onlookers, kissed a baby and hugged people afterward.
All the while, she decried the impeachment proceedings as a betrayal and an injustice. The effort, she argued, is the latest in a string of moves by her opponents since she took office.
“My government was the target of nonstop sabotage,” Rousseff said. “The objective was to stop me from governing and therefore allow an environment inviting the coup.”
Rousseff is accused of breaking budget laws, but she maintains she did the same things previous Brazilian leaders have done.
“I have made mistakes, but I have not committed any crimes. I am being judged unjustly, because I have followed the law to the letter,” she said.
Later, as acting President Michel Temer addressed the nation on television, several dozen Rousseff supporters attempted to force their way into the presidential palace in Brasilia. The protesters were repelled by police who used pepper spray to disperse the crowd.
“I am convinced that it is necessary to rescue Brazilians’ trust internally and internationally,” Temer said. “Because it is fundamental so that our companies and workers, therefore all the productive areas within the country, can have enthusiasm and go back to their secure investments.”
Temer said he had wished the handover ceremony could have been discreet and sober then realized he should say a few words to the people of Brazil.
He also said he had “institutional respect” for Rousseff.
The acting President said Brazil must be united to move forward.
“We don’t have a lot of time. We have to be committed so we can implement the reforms that the country needs,” he said.
President says she’ll keep fighting
Rousseff vowed to keep fighting efforts to impeach her, and called for her supporters to join her.
“Destiny has reserved many challenges for me. … Some of them seemed impossible to overcome. I have suffered from torture, I have suffered from sickness, and now I suffer from the pain of injustice,” she said. “What is more painful now is injustice. I am victim of a political farce. But I won’t give up. I look back and I see all we have accomplished. I look forward and I see all we still need to do.”
The past few months have been a roller coaster for the embattled leader. And while there are some procedural steps we know are coming, given the country’s volatile political landscape, what will happen next is anyone’s guess.
This much is clear: Rousseff will be suspended for up to 180 days. That means she could be on the sidelines, fighting for her political future, when the Olympics come to Latin America’s largest country in August.
As Rousseff spoke, Temer, her one-time vice president, posted a photo on his official Twitter account of the moment when he took power.
Rousseff retains her title as President by law, but she will not be fulfilling the duties of that office.
Speaking through the night, senators made their cases in a marathon session ahead of the electronic vote. Fifty-five of the 81 members of the upper house voted in favor of the motion early Thursday, with 22 voting against.