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In Brazil, Dilma Rousseff To Take The Stand In Her Impeachment Trial

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

It is possibly the last time she will get to make her case to her country. Dilma Rousseff, Brazil's suspended president, is testifying this morning at her own impeachment trial. She is being accused of misrepresenting the state of an economy that was spiraling downward - cooking the books, as it were - with the aim of getting re-elected. NPR's Lulu Garcia-Navarro is in the Senate in Brasilia, where the trial is underway. Good morning.

LOURDES GARCIA-NAVARRO, BYLINE: Good morning.

MONTAGNE: And Dilma Rousseff has just spoken in her defense at this hearing. What did she have to say?

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Yeah, it was a strong speech, Renee. It was the speech of someone who had vowed to go down fighting. And, in fact, she spoke to that repeatedly. In one of the most powerful moments, she talked about how she was tortured under Brazil's dictatorship. She said, my defects don't include cowardliness and disloyalty. I have been tortured. I have been put in prison. I've seen people killed and hurt. I never gave up. I resisted. I always fought for democracy, and there will not be a cowardly silence from me. This is an attempt against a democratically elected leader.

So passionate words from Dilma Rousseff, a woman who is often not known for passionate speeches. She also called this attempt to impeach her a coup. She blamed the right-wing media for its collusion. And she pointed to one of the central issues, which is this. She said, I am not a corrupt person. I am not a person who actually tried to enrich themselves. I always looked for the best for this country. Can you say the same of the people that are judging me? Sixty percent of the senators who are sitting in judgment of her are, of course, facing some kind of criminal charge for corruption or other issues. So she really wanted to highlight that in her speech.

MONTAGNE: Well, Rousseff had, early in her term, been quite popular and also considered quite honest. Will this testimony today have any impact?

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Well, possibly not on the trial itself. Everything points to her removal from office. We know that she doesn't have the votes. Let's remember, impeachment is a political act. It's enacted by politicians. So ultimately, this doesn't depend on the evidence against her but rather the political forces arrayed against her. And those are substantial.

But I think she was speaking to her legacy. She's trying to speak to the Brazilian people. This is a very divided country, and she wants to remind people that no matter what happens here, she was an honest president that did her best for her country.

MONTAGNE: What does happen now?

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Well, as you can hear behind me, senators are questioning Rousseff. It's already been very passionate. Her supporters agree that this is a coup. They've talked about that already. And her detractors are saying she committed a crime that sunk the economy of this country. This is expected to go on all day. Forty-seven senators have asked to question Rousseff.

MONTAGNE: That's NPR's Lulu Garcia-Navarro in the Senate in the capital of Brazil, Brasilia, where the trial of its suspended president is underway. Lulu, thanks very much.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.