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Brazil's Rousseff Denounces Critics Calling for Her Impeachment

FILE - Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff is pictured at a meeting with jurists at Planalto Palace in Brasilia, March 22, 2016. On Wednesday, she assailed opponents who have accused her of using borrowed funds to mask the severity of the country's recession.

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff lashed out Wednesday at critics trying to impeach her, saying they were trying to carry out a "coup."

Rousseff said in Brasilia she would continue to advance social programs in the face of an ongoing recession, rebuffing opposition lawmakers who contend that she illegally borrowed money to boost public spending to mask the severity of the country's economic downturn from voters during her 2014 re-election campaign.

Rousseff has a tenuous hold on power, made more difficult Tuesday when her main coalition partner, the Brazilian Democratic Movement Party, the country's largest political group, left her government. The split with Rousseff's leftist Workers' Party greatly reduced her chances of mustering the one-third of the votes she needs in Brazil's lower house of Congress to defeat a first impeachment vote, which could be held by mid-April.

With the political crisis at home, Rousseff canceled a planned trip to Washington for a nuclear safety summit on Thursday and Friday.

Rousseff's critics have taken to the streets to protest the country's worst recession in decades and a corruption scandal at the state-owned Petrobras oil company that has reached Rousseff's inner circle of associates.

One opposition leader, Senator Romero Juca of the Democratic Movement Party, said, "We're going to try to change the country. The economic and social crisis is very serious."

Brazil was not long ago heralded as an emerging world economic power, alongside China, Russia and India. But Brazil's economy contracted 3.8 percent last year and is on track for its worst two-year economic skid in more than a century.

At the same time, South America's largest country is fighting the outbreak of the mosquito-borne Zika virus as it prepares to host the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro in August.