Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff condemned the “fascist methods” of opponents seeking her ouster and said the country's current political crisis would leave a “scar” if not resolved democratically. In an interview with several foreign media groups, Rousseff said she was being pressured to resign because her rivals wanted “to avoid the difficulty of removing -- unduly, illegally and criminally -- a legitimately elected president from power”.
The populist leader earlier this week ruled out stepping down despite mass protests and impeachment proceedings in Congress. In the interview with The Guardian, The New York Times, Le Monde, El Pais and Argentina's Pagina 12, Rousseff said any attempt to remove her without legal basis would represent a coup.
I am not comparing the coup here to the military coups of the past, but it would be a breaking of the democratic order of Brazil, she said, in comments reported by the Guardian. She said any such move would leave a deep scar on Brazilians' political life.
Rousseff, an ex-guerrilla tortured under Brazil's military dictatorship, said she was in favor of protests because she was from a generation in which if you opened your mouth you could go to jail.
She emphasized, though, that the estimated three million people who protested against her in the largest rally so far represented less than two percent of Brazil's population.
Rousseff painted her opponents as powerful elites opposed to the social changes that have swept Brazil in the past 13 years of left-wing government.
Who stands to benefit from this? she asked, according to The New York Times. I can assure you that they're in the backstage of power.
The impeachment case is based on accusations that Rousseff doctored the government's accounts to boost public spending during her 2014 re-election campaign and hide the depth of a recession last year. She denies her actions were illegal or different from standard practice in previous administrations.
Her opponents are also seeking to link her to a multi-billion-dollar corruption scandal at state oil company Petrobras, but investigators have not accused her and she vehemently denies involvement.
With her coalition splintering amid the crisis, Rousseff called former president Lula da Silva to the rescue last week, naming him her chief of staff. But the move blew up in her face when the judge heading the Petrobras investigation, Sergio Moro, released a wiretapped phone call suggesting the appointment was really aimed at saving the ex-president from arrest on corruption charges.
Violating privacy breaks democracy because it breaks the right of every citizen to a private life, she said, banging the table as she made her point, the Guardian reported.
The interview came as the United Nations office on women's rights in Brazil criticized sexist political violence in the campaign to oust Rousseff, the country's first female president.
Why do they want me to resign? she asked in the interview. Because I'm a woman, fragile. I am not fragile. That is not my life.
Meanwhile on Thursday night thousands of Brazilians demonstrated in support of President Rousseff. Organizers of the march in São Paulo, which is Brazil's biggest city and financial capital, said about 30,000 people joined in, while police estimated 17,000.
Many of them marched on the headquarters of TV Globo, the popular television station that Rousseff sympathizers accuse of being partisan and pushing for the president's ouster. A recent poll by the respected Datafolha agency said 68% of Brazilians surveyed want to see lawmakers vote to impeach Rousseff.