BRASILIA Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff, facing impeachment by Congress, on Tuesday denounced a conspiracy to overthrow her, suggesting that Vice President Michel Temer is one of the leaders of the plot.
A congressional committee on Monday recommended to the lower house that Rousseff be impeached for breaking budget laws to support her re-election in 2014, a charge Rousseff says was trumped up to remove her from office.
"They now are conspiring openly, in the light of day, to destabilise a legitimately elected president," Rousseff said in a speech Tuesday, referring to an audio message sent by Temer to his supporters a day earlier in which he spoke as if the president had already been impeached.
The congressional committee's 38-27 decision was backed by Temer's PMDB party, formerly her main coalition ally. The party's defection last month greatly increased the likelihood that the lower house, in a vote expected this weekend, will send her impeachment to the Senate.
Temer would take over if the Senate agrees to suspend Rousseff and proceed with a trial against her.
Temer has denied plotting against Rousseff, though his aides say he has been preparing in case he has to step into her shoes, so that he can restore confidence in the country.
The rift between Rousseff and Temer reached breaking point on Monday after the audio message was released, which Temer said was unintentional. In the message, Temer called for a government of national unity to overcome Brazil's political crisis.
"The conspirators have been unmasked," Rousseff said Tuesday. She did not mention Temer by name but cited the message as evidence of an effort she has increasingly called a "coup."
Rousseff is struggling to avoid impeachment and her government is largely paralysed as Brazil, the world's seventh largest economy, faces a deep recession and a historic corruption scandal while it prepares to host the Olympic Games in August.
The leftist leader said her opponents were undermining Brazil's young democracy by seeking to cut her second term short with no legal justification. "They intend to overthrow a president elected by more than 54 million voters," said Rousseff, whose popularity has crumbled during Brazil's recession and the corruption scandal surrounding state oil company Petroleo Brasileiro (PETR4.SA), or Petrobras.
Reverting to language that seeks to cast those in favour of her ouster as enemies of the working class, she said the impeachment is aimed at rolling back social and economic advances for many Brazilians during the 13-years of government for her ruling Workers' Party.
(Reporting by Anthony Boadle)
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