Powerful moments from Dilma Rousseff's last effort to stop impeachment

Updated on
Brazil's suspended President Dilma Rousseff attends Senate on Monday in her final defense before impeachment.

Brazil's suspended President Dilma Rousseff attends Senate on Monday in her final defense before impeachment.

Ueslei Marcelino/Reuters

UPDATE: Brazil's Senate overwhelmingly voted on Wednesday to remove President Dilma Rousseff from office. Read more here.

It was the moment Brazilians waited weeks for: Dilma Rousseff took the stand before the country's Senate to defend herself against impeachment.

Far more than a legal defense, Monday's 30-minute speech was an opportunity for Rousseff, Brazil’s first female president, to make one final plea against those seeking to depose her.

Dilma, as she's universally known in Brazil, is not famous for powerful speeches. But she rose to the occasion.

Defiant to the end, Dilma said she went to the Senate to look her accusers in the eye, and she did. Her speech was a litany of proud accomplishments, an angry denunciation of what she considers a “coup” and impassioned pleas to save Brazilian democracy itself. Close to tears at times, she kept her chin up and her energy high. 

After that, she sat for more than 14 hours of senators' questions. On Tuesday, the Senate begins voting on whether to kick the leader, who was suspended in May for the trial, out of office for good.

Below are four highlights from Dilma’s address. 

1. Admitting mistakes

“I have heard harsh criticisms of my government, the mistakes that were made ​​and the policies and measures that were not adopted. 

I welcome such criticism with humility. We all have faults and make mistakes. But my faults don’t include disloyalty or cowardice.”

2. Looking accusers in the eye

“I know that soon, and again in life, I will be judged. And it's because of my absolutely clear conscience about what I did, in the exercise of the presidency, that I have come personally before those who will judge me.

I came to look directly into the eyes of your excellencies and say, with the serenity of one who has nothing to hide, I did not commit any crime of responsibility. I have not committed the crimes of which I have been unjustly and arbitrarily accused.

Today, Brazil, the world and history are watching us and waiting for the outcome of this impeachment process.”

3. ‘Usurping’ Brazil’s first female president

“[The alleged crimes are] only pretexts to overthrow, through an impeachment process without criminal liability, a legitimate government chosen in a direct election with the participation of 110 million Brazilians — the government of a woman who dared to win two consecutive presidential elections.

They are pretexts to enable a blow to the constitution. A blow which, if consummated, will result in the indirect election of a government of usurpers. The indirect election of a government that already in its temporary embodiment, has no women commanding ministries, when at the ballot box, the people chose a woman to lead the country.”

4. ‘Judged by history’

“We will all be judged by history. I have twice seen, firsthand, the face of death: When I was tortured for days and subjected to cruelties that made me doubt humanity and the very meaning of life; and when a serious and extremely painful disease could have shortened my life.

Today, I only fear the death of democracy.”

Read more: Brazil could impeach Dilma Rousseff this week

Follow Will Carless for updates from Brasilia on Twitter: @WillCarless

Sign up for our daily newsletter

Sign up for The Top of the World, delivered to your inbox every weekday morning.