Brazil’s president plans to take her impeachment fight to the United Nations

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff being greeted by supporters in front of Planalto Palace in Brasilia on April 19, 2016.

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff being greeted by supporters in front of Planalto Palace in Brasilia on April 19, 2016.

(Roberto Stuckert Filho / AFP/Getty Images)

Fighting an effort by lawmakers here to boot her from office, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff reportedly plans to argue her case Friday at the United Nations.

The U.N. has no power in deciding her fate. But a persuasive argument on an international stage could potentially help sway opinion back home and put pressure on the men trying to remove her and take over.

Rousseff will have the opportunity to take the floor before the U.N. General Assembly in New York at the signing of the climate change agreement negotiated last year in Paris.


Brazilian news outlets reported Wednesday that she will lay out the case that the impeachment effort is essentially a coup d’etat motivated purely by politics.

Her office has neither confirmed nor denied the reports. She has used her U.N. platform before to sound off on an issue unrelated to the business at hand — delivering a fuming speech in 2013 denouncing U.S. surveillance efforts.

This week, Rousseff defiantly declared that she would not stop fighting for her survival in office. “Political differences are not the basis for impeachment,” she told reporters Tuesday.

She said she was driven by her personal convictions, much as she was decades ago when she was fighting the dictatorship that ruled Brazil at the time.

Once wildly popular, Rousseff has seen her support plummet amid economic decline, a multibillion-dollar scandal at the state-run oil company and now deepening political chaos.

The latest and most serious blow came Sunday, when more than two-thirds of the lower house of Congress voted to put her on trial for allegedly breaking fiscal responsibility laws by shifting government funds to cover budget shortfalls.


The proceedings against her now move to the Senate, which could vote as soon as next month on whether a trial should proceed. If that happens, she would be forced to step down from office during the trial — and for good if convicted.

Rousseff contends that the impeachment effort is illegitimate because the accusations against her do not rise to the level of a serious crime as required by the constitution.

Brazilians are still trying to digest the circus-like spectacle of Sunday’s impeachment vote, which was televised for hours as legislator after legislator took the floor.

Few addressed the accusations against her. Instead, they said they were voting for God or family or to defend conservative values. One said he was voting for impeachment to prevent Brazil from becoming “like North Korea.”

Others made shout-outs to family members or businesses in their states.

One prominent conservative, Jair Bolsonaro, dedicated his vote to Col. Brilhante Ustra, who tortured Rousseff and other dissidents during the military dictatorship.

Joaquim Barbosa, a former Supreme Court justice and popular anti-corruption crusader, later said the proceedings were cause for “tears of embarrassment.”


Ordinary Brazilians agreed.

“Their behavior has become a national joke,” said Guilherme Silva, an airline agent here.

“It’s embarrassing,” he said. “I think impeachment is probably the right way forward, but it was shocking to watch that. Those people are supposed to represent us?”

Bevins is a special correspondent.