BRASILIA | BY LISANDRA PARAGUASSU AND ALONSO SOTO
Suspended Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff vowed on Thursday she would fight to prove her innocence after the Senate voted to put her on trial for breaking budget laws, its historic decision fueled by deep recession and a sprawling corruption scandal.
In a dramatic changing of the guard that signaled a political shift in Brazil, Rousseff, a leftist who has been in office since 2011, departed Brasilia’s Planalto presidential palace just hours after the vote.
Centrist Vice President Michel Temer took over as interim president for the duration of a Senate trial that could take up to six months.
Temer, a constitutional scholar who spent decades in Brazil’s Congress and who had a bitter falling out with Rousseff last year, faces the daunting task of hauling the world’s No. 9 economy out its worst downturn since the Great Depression and cutting bloated public spending.
Temer, 75, quickly named respected former central bank governor Henrique Meirelles as his finance minister, as part of a scaled-back cabinet, with a mandate to overhaul the costly pension system.
In a defiant address before she left, Rousseff reiterated what she has maintained since impeachment proceedings were launched against her last December by the lower house of Congress, calling the impeachment “fraudulent” and “a coup.”
“I may have made mistakes but I did not commit any crime,” she said. Rousseff’s mentor, former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who now faces corruption charges, stood behind her and looked on dejectedly as 13 years of rule by their Workers Party came to an abrupt end.
Rousseff, 68, was flanked by dozens of outgoing ministers. Even as many wept, Rousseff remained stolid.
“I never imagined that it would be necessary to fight once again against a coup in this country,” Rousseff said, in a reference to her youth fighting Brazil’s military dictatorship.
Shortly afterward, she addressed hundreds of supporters outside, many of them dressed in Workers Party red, and already shouting “Temer out!”
“This is a tragic hour for our country,” Rousseff said, calling her suspension an effort by conservatives to roll back the social and economic gains made by the Workers Party.