Brazil president rejects calls to resign in scandal

March 12, 2016 7:49 am
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Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff gestures during a meeting with rectors of public universities and technical education at Planalto Palace in Brasilia, on March 11, 2016/AFP
Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff gestures during a meeting with rectors of public universities and technical education at Planalto Palace in Brasilia, on March 11, 2016/AFP

, BRAZIL, Mar 12 – Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff dug in Friday against a swirling political crisis, rejecting calls to resign and closing ranks with her embattled predecessor, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.

With money-laundering charges against Lula adding to the pressure on her administration, Rousseff vehemently defended her mentor.

Overview
  • Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff dug in Friday against a swirling political crisis.
  • Rousseff is facing an impeachment drive, a bruising recession, a scandal at state oil company Petrobras, and a probe into alleged electoral violations.
  • But the leftist president said her opponents' calls for her to resign showed they lacked the evidence to remove her through impeachment.

She said she would even be proud to have him in her cabinet a move that could be used to protect the ex-president.

Rousseff is facing an impeachment drive, a bruising recession, a scandal at state oil company Petrobras, and a probe into alleged electoral violations.

But the leftist president said her opponents’ calls for her to resign showed they lacked the evidence to remove her through impeachment.

“Resigning is a voluntary act. Those who want my resignation are recognizing that there’s no real basis to request my exit from this position,” Rousseff told a press conference.

“There’s not the slightest possibility” that she will step down, she added.

She defended Lula, her once wildly popular predecessor.

“I would take great pride in having president Lula in my government because he is a person with experience and great political capability,” she said.

Rousseff did not say whether she was really considering such a move, as media have been speculating.

Some of Rousseff’s allies said that would leverage the ex-president’s charisma for the embattled administration.

It would also protect him from criminal charges in ordinary court. Under Brazilian law, cabinet ministers can only be tried before the Supreme Court.

Some media reported, however, that Lula had refused a cabinet post.

– Corruption scandal –

The powerful former president was charged with money laundering on Wednesday over his alleged ownership of a luxury condo linked to dirty cash from the Petrobras scandal.

Prosecutors requested his arrest Thursday, calling for him to be remanded in custody pending trial.

Rousseff called that demand “an unjust act that defies common sense.”

Lula denies the charges.

A former steelworker and labor leader, Lula led Brazil through an economic boom from 2003 to 2011.

An icon of the Latin American left, he rolled out programs credited with helping lift millions from poverty.

But his administration was also haunted by scandals.

Now he is charged with hiding ownership of a luxury apartment at a seaside resort in Sao Paulo state.

State prosecutors said they had documents and two dozen witnesses indicating Lula and his family are the apartment’s real owners.

Federal investigators are also carrying out a broader probe into a massive corruption scheme centered on Petrobras, Brazil’s biggest company.

It is alleged that Petrobras executives took bribes to give contracts to big construction firms and other contractors, who then overbilled the oil company.

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