Suspended Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff is to miss the opening ceremony on August 5 over her impeachment trial. Her ally, former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, will also not go to the event.
Rousseff, who was suspended as part of a legal bid to permanently remove from her office, was invited to attend Rio’s Maracana stadium where interim President Michel Temer will officially declare the Games open. But her response was blunt.
“She will not go,” said a source from Rousseff’s office at the Alvorada Palace residency in the capital Brasilia Tuesday. “Lula will not go,” echoed Jose Chrispiniano, a spokesman at the Lula Institute in Sao Paulo.
Their absence from the ceremony highlights the ongoing political crisis in Brazil with Rousseff facing possible impeachment for allegedly breaking government budget laws, and Lula, who as president was instrumental in Rio’s winning bid as Olympic host, facing serious corruption allegations.
Rousseff insists the impeachment process is a coup in disguise mounted by Temer, her former vice president, who took on her role temporarily after her suspension in May. If she is removed permanently Temer would retain the presidency until 2018, but if she survives, she said she will call early elections.
Brazil’s parliament may vote on her ouster during the Games.
Temer is expected to preside over the Games as Brazil’s leader but has said that Rousseff would be welcome at the games but not at his side at the VIP balcony.
“She will be in the stands below him,” spokesman Marcio de Freitas said in a message to the Reuters news agency.
‘I want presidential status’
On Monday, Rousseff told French radio RFI that she would refuse to attend the opening ceremony with anything less than presidential status. “I do not intend to take a secondary role in the Games in Rio,” she said.
Rousseff insists that she and Lula had done most of the work to win the Olympics for Rio de Janeiro and build the infrastructure for the global sports event.
When Rio won the Games, it was seen as the icing on the cake, amid a commodities-fueled economic boom that lifted millions of people out of severe poverty.
Brazil, which hosted the football World Cup in 2014, was until recently seen as one of the leaders of the BRICS group of fast growing economies, but has since experienced a severe depression and ongoing political crises.
A recent poll suggests that 50 percent of Brazilians oppse hosting the Olympics, with almost two-thirds predicting the Games will do more harm than good.
Several other former Brazilian presidents including Fernando Henrique Cardoso, Fernando Collor de Mellor and Jose Sarney were also invited.