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Democracy at stake in trial – Rousseff

BRASILIA (Reuters) – A defiant President Dilma Rousseff warned on Monday that her conservative opponents were trampling on Brazil’s democracy by using trumped-up charges to oust her and roll back the social advances of 13 years of leftist rule.

Presenting her defense at an impeachment trial in the Senate, Brazil’s first female president said the economic elite had sought to destabilize her government since she narrowly won re-election to a second four-year term in 2014.

Rousseff is expected to become the first Brazilian leader in more than 20 years to be dismissed from office on Wednesday when the Senate will rule on charges that she broke budgetary laws by using state banks’ money to boost public spending.

In an emotional speech from the Senate podium, Rousseff denied any wrongdoing and compared the trial to her persecution during Brazil’s 1964-1985 military dictatorship, when she was a member of a leftist guerrilla group. She said the impeachment process, which has paralyzed Brazilian politics since December and cast a shadow over last month’s Rio Olympics, was little more than a plot to protect the interests of the privileged classes in Latin America’s largest economy.

“I did not commit the crimes that I am arbitrarily and unjustly accused of,” Rousseff said, in what may be her last public appearance as president. “We are one step away from a real coup d’etat.”