After 13 years at the head of Brazilian politics, the Workers' Party was dealt another huge blow. Former President Lula da Silva will not be able to come to embattled leader Rousseff's aid as he faces charges of his own.
Just as suspended Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff's impeachment trial was getting off to a rocky start on Friday, her key ally, former leader Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, has to contend with corruption charges of his own.
Police recommended graft charges against the ex-president as part of a far-reaching probe into embezzlement at the state-owned oil giant Petrobras, the same scandal that has engulfed Rousseff and threatened the pair's once unstoppable Workers' Party.
The case against Lula alleges that construction company OAS, which has been implicated in the Petrobras scheme, paid to renovate his luxury beach condo and country home. The charges also involve the former president's wife, Marisa Leticia Lula da Silva, and three others, claiming that they "benefited from illicit gains from OAS to the value of 2,430,193.61 reals" ($743,000) due to the construction work.
"This is a politically motivated indictment," his lawyer said. "We are going to fight these charges as Lula is innocent," he continued, adding that "this has become a persecution, not a prosecution."
Allegations threaten to topple Workers' Party
The decision was the latest blow to Rousseff, whose trial over allegations of fiddling with government accounts devolved into a shouting match on its second day. Lula had planned to travel to Brasilia on Monday to lend a hand in her battle against impeachment and to stop their party, which had dominated Brazilian politics for 13 years, from crumbling.
A conviction would also dash any hope the 70-year-old had of running for a third term in 2018.
Rousseff, who chaired Petrobras before becoming president, has labeled the attempt to unseat her as a "coup" on the part of her political rivals. Following her suspension, then vice president and now interim leader Michel Temer, of the opposition PMDB party, assumed her office.
Although Temer is set to become full president if Rousseff is found guilty, he and several other PMDB members have also been implicated in the graft scandal that alleges many well-placed politicians accepted bribes to facilitate inflated Petrobras contracts.
es/kl (AFP, Reuters)