Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff: 'I will be very sad' if I miss the Olympics

Story highlights

  • Dilma Rousseff says she'll be "very sad" if impeachment forces her to miss the Olympics
  • The Brazilian President says sexism is playing a role in the push to impeach her
  • Impeachment shouldn't be tied to the popularity of a President, she argues

(CNN)When her country signed on to host the 2016 Summer Olympics, Dilma Rousseff was there from the beginning.

But now, with efforts to impeach the Brazilian President gaining steam, Rousseff could be sidelined when the Games begin. If senators pass an impeachment motion, she'll have to step down for 180 days to defend herself.
    "If that happens, I will be very sad. ... I would very much like to take part in the Olympic process, because I helped build the effort from day one," Rousseff told CNN's Christiane Amanpour in an exclusive interview set to air Thursday.
    If a Senate committee recommends her impeachment and a majority of senators approve the motion, Rousseff could be suspended as early as May -- about three months before the Summer Olympics are set to kick off in Rio de Janeiro.
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    The event was supposed to showcase Brazil as a rising power on the global stage. But these days, the hurdles her country is facing in a massive corruption scandal seem to be springing up faster than runners on an Olympic racetrack.
    In a wide-ranging interview with CNN's Amanpour, Rousseff defended her record, vowed to keep fighting and argued that what she's done as President has very little to do with the impeachment firestorm.
    "I think there is a very strong element that has to do with the fact that I am a woman," Rousseff said. "They have often said that I was a very harsh woman."
    "And I have always replied as follows, 'Yes, I am a harsh woman, surrounded by cute, polite, gentle and kind men around me," Rousseff said with a wry smile. "Only women are described as being harsh in office when they take a position.'"
    Snapshot: Brazil impeachment

    Brazilian lawmakers are weighing whether to impeach President Dilma Rousseff.

    Why: She's accused of breaking laws by borrowing from state banks to cover a budget shortfall.

    Where things stand: In Brazil's lower house, 367 lawmakers approved the impeachment motion. But the country's Senate will have the final say.

    What happens if she's impeached: Vice President Michel Temer will take the reins for 180 days while Rousseff defends herself.

    Rousseff had high approval ratings when she became Brazil's first female President in 2010. Now she's a highly unpopular President with an approval rating near 10% thanks to the worst recession in decades and a bribery scandal involving state-run oil company Petrobras and dozens of politicians in her party and governing coalition.
    The President herself is not implicated in the scandal, but millions of Brazilians have taken to the streets to demand her ouster over the institutional corruption and tanking economy. Last week the country's lower house overwhelmingly approved a motion for her impeachment. She's accused of breaking budgetary laws by borrowing from state banks to cover a shortfall in Brazil's deficit and pay for popular social programs.
    Rousseff has argued that other leaders have used the same accounting approach and that she's done nothing that violates the Constitution. Low approval ratings, she said, shouldn't be what fuels a push to remove a democratically elected leader from office.
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    "In Brazil ... just as is the case in the U.S., no one can carry out an impeachment process out of sheer unpopularity of the President, because unpopularity is a cyclical thing," Rousseff said. "Because if it were not so, all Presidents, all Prime Ministers in Europe that experienced 20% unemployment rates would inevitably have to go through an impeachment process. Because they, too, experienced substantial drops in their popularity."
    In her interview with Amanpour, Rousseff repeated her accusation that efforts to impeach her amount to a coup. And she vowed not to back down.
    "I will fight to survive, not just for my term in office," Rousseff said, "but I will fight, because what I am advocating and defending is the democratic principle that governs political life in Brazil."