Unseated Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff has spoken to RT in her first TV interview since being suspended from office by the country’s Senate. She says that the old Brazilian oligarchy is behind the impeachment process, and vows to fight the “coup.”
Every president before me has done it, and it has never been a crime. It won’t become a crime now. There is no basis for considering it a crime. A crime has to be legally defined. So we believe this impeachment is a coup, because it’s clearly stated in the Constitution that only a crime of malversation can serve as basis for impeachment. The actions currently under scrutiny do not, strictly speaking, fall under that category.
Besides, Brazil is a presidential republic. You can’t remove a president or a prime minister who hasn’t committed a crime. We’re not a parliamentary republic, where a president can dissolve the congress, which, in turn, can call for a vote of no confidence out of purely political reasons. So it’s impossible to impeach a president in Brazil based solely on political reasons or political distrust. We believe that what’s happening now in Brazil is an attempt to replace an innocent president involved in no corruption-related legal proceedings in order for the politicians that lost the 2014 election to control the state bypassing the new election. That’s what’s happening.
This is an attempt to replace the entire political program that includes both the social and economic development aspects and is aimed at tackling the crisis that Brazil has been going through in recent years with a program clearly neoliberal in nature. This program provides for minimizing our social programs in accordance with the minimal state doctrine. This doctrine is at odds with all the Brazilian legal norms regarding healthcare, construction and ensuring that our people have their own houses, availability of high-quality education and minimum wages guaranteed to the poorest part of the Brazilian population. They want to do away with these rights and at the same time they conduct an anti-national policy, for example, when it comes to Brazil’s oil resources.
Significant subsalt oil reserves, lying 7,000 m below the surface, were discovered recently. The ministers were saying that exploring these reserves was impossible, but now we’re extracting a million barrels daily from subsalt oil reserves. Undoubtedly, they were saying that thinking to change the legislation in order to guarantee access to these reserves to international companies. Moreover, in terms of foreign policy, starting from Lula da Silva and throughout my presidency, we have been seeking to strengthen ties with Latin American, African, BRICS countries and other developing nations, in addition to the developed world – the US and Europe. I think that BRICS is one of the most important multilateral groups created in the last decade. But the interim government holds different views on BRICS and the importance we place on Latin America.
They are even discussing the possibility of closing embassies in some African countries. We have very special relations with Africa. Brazil is the country with the highest percentage of population of African descent in the world, second only to African countries. We have a lot of people of African descent, so over the last few years we’ve been putting particular emphasis on our relations with the African countries, and not only Portuguese-speaking ones. This shows a wider approach to the world, as opposed to the traditional one, supported by those who have usurped the power now and are taking steps that are at odds with the program approved by the Brazilian people, by 54 mln votes, on the day I was elected.
The current coup is happening within the democratic framework, with the use of existing institutions in support of indirect elections not stipulated in the Constitution. This coup is carried out by hands tearing apart the Brazilian Constitution. So we don’t know what kind of repercussions this will lead to, considering that an impeachment without repercussions would only be possible in the case of a committed crime. If there is no crime, an impeachment is illegal. And since it’s illegal, it’s a serious problem for the interim government. I’m living proof of this unlawfulness and injustice. It also means that they can’t forget about it; they staged a coup and they can be called usurpers, which is a very strong word in the political sphere.
A government that would disregard one of the most important institutions that serves as the foundation of the Brazilian identity – the Ministry of Culture. Culture has a direct bearing on the national issue. In a country such as ours, with such ethnic variety, culture is a unifying factor that allows everyone to express themselves within that variety, which is why what’s going on now is so regrettable. It’s not only about the loss of civil rights and liberties, but I would even say it’s a violation of the national issue due to the decreasing role of the ministry. Another interesting thing about this government is that today they’re adopting a measure, and tomorrow they’re changing it – they haven’t been elected, so they don’t have a legitimate program. They haven’t presented it during the election campaign and they haven’t participated in debates about it.
This program hasn’t been approved by the population. So the government makes absurd statements. For example, they say that we need to get rid of some parts of the Brazilian healthcare system. In accordance with the 1988 Constitution, the system guarantees free and universal healthcare. The interim government wants to shrink the system and make some healthcare services the competency of private firms. The government is creating these controversies to see how the people will react, and a day later they change their stance, but they’re bad at concealing the tendency – their purpose, really – to implement the most neoliberal program possible.
DR: That’s the most important thing, the spontaneous demonstrations of the ordinary people, of artists, of those who do it anonymously, who feel dissatisfied with what happened. I’m talking not only about my mandate, but this experiment on democracy, this loss of rights. I was very touched by the demonstration in Cannes staged by our director who made Aquarius, and other demonstrations. Recently a theatre in one Brazilian town had a Carmina Burana performance with a political message that condemned the interim usurper government.
RT: There are some reports indicating that the interim government might revoke 75 of your bills and the Workers' Party amendments made to the legislation in the course of the last 13 years. I would like to ask whether you have noticed that your vice-president not only wasn’t on board with what you were doing, but was actually against it?
For example, the federal program, ‘My house, My Life’ embraces 46 million Brazilians. Huge numbers of the citizens have moved up about the poverty line during the past decade. And although the acting president wrote on Twitter that he won’t do it, we see the interim government taking measures that will result in freezing the construction of 11,000 new residential buildings. If this comes true, the program will be reduced down to 10% of its original scope, so is there a risk of many Brazilian families falling back into extreme poverty again?
Why so? If we look at the social integration process in Brazil we’ll see that it begins with the redistribution of incomes. If we fail to guarantee accessible education, healthcare and housing we can’t change the conditions the poorer people live in. We have a saying that the end of poverty is just the beginning of the way, and it’s a way to more rights and new processes. One of these rights is the most important of all; that is the right to have a house, because a house is a place for a family to raise its children. And the target audience of ‘My house, My Life’ program is the younger generation. Our children and the youth get to benefit from the improved environment, receiving better care and education, and a better quality of life. The same is true for the “Family Allowance” program which covers 47 million people.
Who benefits from it? What’s its goal? This program guarantees minimal income to the poorest families. Whose interests does it have at its heart? Mainly, interests of the children. Why children? Because the way the program is designed, a family needs to meet two main criteria. In order to get the allowance, the family’s children have to attend school. That’s the precondition for the governmental support, and we run checks to make sure that children are in school. If that proves not to be true, that family is removed from the benefits list.
Children do better at school. Thanks to the program that we’ve had in place for 13 years, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations has excluded Brazil from the list of countries living in extreme poverty. In 2014, for the first time Brazil was excluded from the list of the poorest countries in the world. We have achieved all these results thanks to ‘Family Allowance” and other education programs. We have also made it possible for more young people in our country to get access to higher education. We grant quotas to the poor, people of African and Indian descent, and also those who went to public schools.
This initiative made it possible to have ethnic diversity at our universities. Recently we implemented changes that made higher education more accessible. Since several programs were set up in that area, we were able to expand the pool of opportunities significantly. We have opened more universities and colleges. Now a child from a regular working family could become a doctor – we even have a song about it. I think this is a huge achievement for our country. We have reversed the social situation in Brazil. The country itself is not what it was when we came to power in 2003.
Special research shows that after the 1990s there was a lengthy period when there were no coups in Latin America. Now that period is over and we are facing a wave of impeachments. I received a number of phone calls that lifted my spirits because they were from the international leaders I used to work with. I won’t name them, but there were several presidents who called me. I don’t want to give their names because I didn’t ask for their permission and I don’t want this to influence the relations between their states and Brazil.