Suspended President Dilma Rousseff took the stand Monday morning in her impeachment trial, and in measured but blunt language denied any criminal wrongdoing in handling the country's budget, and decried the effort to remove her from office as a "coup" orchestrated by Brazilian politicians to stop a federal investigation of allegations of bribery and influence-peddling.
“I am here to look directly in your eyes to say with serenity that I have nothing to hide,” Rousseff said during her half-hour statement. “I did not commit the crimes that I am accused of.”
"I have never enriched myself with public funds, and I have never manipulated budgets to benefit myself," she said. "I have acted honestly, and I will now be tried for crimes I have not committed."
Rousseff argued that it is not "irony" but "deliberate" that the leaders of the impeachment bid — particularly former speaker of the lower house Eduardo Cunha — are deeply embroiled in corruption charges while there is no evidence to support any criminal charges against her.
She argued that she has "paid a heavy price" for working, along with her predecessor Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, to create the "necessary conditions" for state corruption to be thoroughly and independently investigated, without government interference. She also alluded to wiretap recordings leaked in the weeks after her suspension in May that revealed that high-level opposition figures had schemed to halt corruption investigations against them and their allies through ousting Rousseff from office. She claimed that these "poweful forces" and political interests "architected (her) destitution."
"We are one step away from a serious institutional rupture," she said. "We are one step away from a real coup d'etat."