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Defiant Rousseff condemns impeachment

Do Not UseDo Not Use 12/05/2016
Dilma Rousseff, 12 May © AP Dilma Rousseff, 12 May

Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff has condemned the move to impeach her as a "coup" and a "farce", denying she has committed any crimes.

Dilma Rousseff, 12 May © AFP Dilma Rousseff, 12 May

She was addressing the nation on TV for the first time since senators voted overnight to suspend her for budgetary violations and put her on trial.

Michel Temer © Reuters Michel Temer

Ms Rousseff vowed to fight the "injustice" by all legal means.

Vice-President Michel Temer has now officially taken over as interim leader and has appointed a team.

Respected conservative Henrique Meirelles, who headed the central bank under leftist ex-President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, becomes finance minister.

Mr Temer will serve while Ms Rousseff's trial takes place. It may last up to 180 days, which would mean Ms Rousseff would be suspended during the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, which start on 5 August.

Where did it all go wrong for Rousseff?

Real-life House of Cards? How Brazil reacted

Profile: Interim President Michel Temer

The challenges facing Brazil's interim president

How impeachment came about

Senators had voted to suspend her by 55 votes to 22 after an all-night session that lasted more than 20 hours.

Ms Rousseff is accused of illegally manipulating finances to hide a growing public deficit ahead of her re-election in 2014.

'Fraudulent'

In her TV speech, flanked by ministers at the presidential palace, Ms Rousseff said that she may have made mistakes but had committed no crimes, adding: "I did not violate budgetary laws."

She said: "What is at stake is respect for the ballot box, the sovereign will of the Brazilian people and the constitution."

Analysis: BBC South America correspondent Wyre Davies

It must have been a difficult moment for Brazil's first female president as she faced the massed ranks of the press. She must know, despite her protestations, that there is little chance of her emerging from a six-month impeachment trial to resume her presidency.

Surrounded by friends and colleagues, she talked emotionally about "hurt", "betrayal" and her "innocence". She left with her head held high, walking out of the presidential palace for the last time to greet loyal supporters.

Ms Rousseff always points out that 53 million people voted for her when she was re-elected and what is happening now is a betrayal of the democratic process. But what she consistently fails to appreciate is how that support has evaporated as Brazil's economy nose-dived and her government became embroiled in a corruption scandal.

Michel Temer might enjoy the support of Congress but many Brazilians will look upon him as a usurper. Brazil is a divided country, as it has not been for many years. Removing a president whose fall from grace has been spectacular will not heal this division overnight.

Branding the process "fraudulent" and saying her government was "undergoing sabotage", she vowed to fight the charges against her and said she was confident she would be found innocent.

Ms Rousseff, 68, accused the opposition of leading the impeachment because they had vehemently opposed all the advances she and her predecessor, Lula, had made for the Brazilian poor and lower middle classes.

After her speech she left the presidential palace and shook hands with supporters lining the pathway.

In another speech outside she told supporters she could feel their "love and energy" on what she called a "tragic" day for the country.

Who is stand-in President Michel Temer?

Michel Temer became interim president as soon as Ms Rousseff was suspended.

The 75-year-old law professor of Lebanese origin was Ms Rousseff's vice-president and was a key figure in the recent upheaval

Up until now, he's been the kingmaker, but never the king, having helped form coalitions with every president in the past two decades

He is president of Brazil's largest party, the PMDB, which abandoned the coalition in March

In recent months, his role has become even more influential; in a WhatsApp recording leaked in April, he outlined how Brazil needed a "government to save the country".

Read more on Michel Temer here

Michel Temer has nominated a 21-strong cabinet.

There are no women, although more names could be added. Ms Rousseff had earlier suggested that sexism in the male-dominated Congress had played a key part in the impeachment process.

Mr Meirelles, the new finance minister, built a reputation for calming nerves in the markets when heading the central bank, and helped tame inflation to create one of the country's biggest economic booms.

During the overnight debate, Senator Jose Serra, who has been named the new foreign minister, said the impeachment process was "a bitter though necessary medicine".

"Having the Rousseff government continue would be a bigger tragedy," he said.

Brazil is suffering from its worst recession in 10 years, unemployment reached 9% in 2015 and inflation is at a 12-year high.

What happens next?

The 180 days allocated for the trial to take place expire on 8 November.

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