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Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff has addressed the nation in a defiant speech outside the presidential palace, calling a senate decision to suspend her for 180 days a coup.
Rousseff, 68, has been in office since 2011 and her suspension came hours after the senate voted 55-22 to put her on trial, a decision that ended more than 13 years of rule by the left-wing The Workers’ Party.
She said on Thursday that she was “a victim of a legal farce and a political farce”.
“When an elected president is suspended because of a crime she hasn’t committed, the name we give is not impeachment but a coup,” Rousseff said.
“I may have made mistakes but I did not commit any crime. The coup d’etat threatens to undo true victories of [the] last decade.”
Rousseff said she was proud to be the first woman president and vowed to fight on.
“I have fought my entire life for democracy, I have had many victories,” she said, referring to her youth fighting a military dictatorship.
“The struggle for democracy has no date and no deadline.”
The Workers’ Party grew out of Brazil’s labour movement and helped pull millions of people out of poverty before seeing many of its leaders tainted by corruption investigations.
Al Jazeera’s Lucia Newman, reporting from Brasilia, said Rouseff’s speach was dramatic and emotional, her voice faltering at one point.
“The president is going to her supporters outside the palace hugging them as she prepares to leave the office for who knows how long,” she said.
“What she is being accused of is something that many presidents have done in the past. But they didn’t do it when the country’s economy was in deep recession.”
Rousseff will be replaced by vice president Michel Temer for the duration of a senate trial that could take up to six months.
In his first address on Thursday, Temer said his new cabinet must work to restore the country’s credibility.
“We must significantly improve the business environment for the private sector … and rebalance the government’s budget,” said Temer. “It is urgent to restore peace and unite Brazil.”
Temer has already faced sharp criticism from opponents for installing an all-white, all-male cabinet and for including ministers implicated in corruption.