Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff calls impeachment attempt a 'coup'

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff says she is innocent of any wrongdoing and she will fight efforts to remove her before the next elections in 2018.

Rousseff says her removal from office would have 'serious consequences for the Brazilian political process'

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff delivers her remarks during the signing ceremony on climate change held at the United Nations Headquarters in New York City on Friday. Afterwards, she told reporters she will fight any attempt to oust her from power before the next election. (Carlo Allegri/Reuters)

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff says she is innocent of any wrongdoing and she will fight efforts to remove her before the next elections in 2018.

Rousseff's comments were the strongest signal yet that she could continue fighting her ouster if the Senate removes her from office.

The impeachment process has "all the characteristics of a coup" as it has no legal basis, she said, in an attempt to rally international support for her political narrative.

Speaking to reporters following an address at the United Nations on Friday, Rousseff  blamed the impeachment attempt on corrupt politicians, a hostile media and flagging economy.

She said impeachment would have "serious consequences for the Brazilian political process."

Rousseff is accused of using sleight-of-hand accounting tricks to continue funding government programs and thus shore up flagging support. She has argued that such manoeuvres are common practice in Brazil.

On Sunday, the lower Chamber of Deputies voted in favour of impeaching Rousseff. The measure now goes to the Senate for a possible trial.

Rousseff said she would appeal to the Mercosur bloc of South American nations for Brazil to be suspended if democratic process is broken.

Mercosur has a democratic clause that can be triggered when an elected government is overthrown in any of its member states, as happened in Paraguay in 2012. A breach results in suspension from meetings and can lead to the country losing its trade benefits.

"I would appeal to the democracy clause if there were, from now on, a rupture of what I consider democratic process," she told reporters in New York.

Rousseff could be removed from office within weeks by the Senate in an impeachment process that has paralyzed her government and thrown Brazil into its deepest political crisis since its return to civilian rule in 1985.

'Coup without weapons'

The president denied her cabinet is hobbled by impeachment proceedings, but said the country currently lacked the political stability to balance its fiscal accounts.

The impeachment crisis has polarized the country, with her supporters regarding the attempt to oust her for breaking budget laws as a "coup without weapons," while opponents say the process follows the law and the constitution.

Rousseff adopted a softer tone earlier on Friday in a speech to the United Nations during the signing of the Paris Agreement on climate change, in which she avoided the word "coup."

"I cannot conclude my remarks without mentioning the grave moment Brazil is currently undergoing," she said. "I have no doubt our people will be capable of preventing any setbacks."

Rousseff said foreign leaders had expressed solidarity.

Her last-minute decision to go to the United Nations brought the Brazilian crisis to the streets of New York. Outside the UN headquarters, some 100 Rousseff backers chanted in support of the beleaguered leftist president, while about 50 opponents chanted back at them.

"There won't be any setbacks. The impeachment will go ahead," said opposition Congressman Jose Carlos Aleluia, who was sent to observe Rousseff's speech at the UN by her nemesis, lower house Speaker Eduardo Cunha.

"The accusations against the president are very serious. Her actions led to economic chaos, besides violating the Constitution," Cunha's office said in a statement.

With files from Reuters