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Brazil Leader Works to Save Presidency
AP / Yahoo ^ | July 30, 2005 | HAROLD OLMOS

Posted on 07/30/2005 2:49:53 PM PDT by TFine80

His voice hoarse, his arms waving, President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva told a cheering crowd that Brazil's "elites" would not break him, that he had learned from his poor, illiterate parents not to lie or to steal.

"With a lot of sacrifice, I earned the right to hold my head up high," he told an applauding oil workers union.

Silva, a former union boss elected in a landslide with pledges to make Brazil a "decent country," is back on the campaign trail. But this time it's to save his presidency from corruption charges, regain the trust of voters — and avoid possible impeachment.

The president, known by the nickname Lula, is in the eye of a political hurricane, battling allegations that his leftist Workers Party, or PT, was involved in multimillion-dollar bribery scandals, buying votes in Congress and negotiating loans and kickbacks with advertising agencies and state-owned companies.

The scandal threatens to destroy the party's anticorruption image and could very well sink Silva's chances for re-election next year, although the president himself so far remains relatively unscathed by the allegations.

"This is the worst crisis ever since the country returned to democracy" two decades ago, said Luciano Dias, a political analyst in Brasilia.

The scandal has fascinated Brazilians, who follow the live, televised congressional hearings as eagerly as soap operas. In just weeks, eight cabinet ministers have been changed and half a dozen high-ranking PT officials have been dismissed.

Many Brazilians still identify with Silva, a former shoeshine boy, high-school dropout and lathe operator who defied Brazil's military leaders and rose to become congressman and president. Polls show he is still the strongest candidate in the 2006 election.

"So far nothing has stuck to him. It is possible that he will choose not to run for re-election, but only if his popularity falls deep down, which hasn't happened despite all the allegations," said David Fleischer, a political scientist at the University of Brasilia.

Just three months ago, Silva's re-election was considered a sure thing.

His popularity was soaring. Financial markets loved him. He was committed to free-market policies and raised interest rates to stifle inflation. Unemployment was high but stable at around 10 percent.

But then his troubles started — and from an unlikely source.

Rep. Roberto Jefferson, a right-wing party leader who Silva once said was so loyal he would give him a blank check, claimed the PT paid legislators to pass government bills in Congress. He said at least two dozen congressmen had been receiving monthly "allowances" worth 30,000 reals, the equivalent of $12,500, since 2003.

Investigators then found the PT had received bank loans worth millions of dollars, and politicians started getting caught with suspiciously large sums of cash.

One party member was arrested trying to board an airplane with 200,000 reals, worth $80,000, in a briefcase and $100,000 in cash in his underwear. Two legislators who belonged to wealthy evangelical sects were arrested as they boarded private planes with 18 bags filled with cash. A state assemblyman was detained briefly after arriving at a Brazil airport carrying 11 suitcases stuffed with cash and checks. Then, one day later, federal deputy Joao Batista Ramos da Silva was detained with seven suitcases containing cash worth nearly $4.3 million.

At the moment, the scandal is focused on millionaire advertising executive Marcos Valerio, whose companies contributed heavily to election campaigns — apparently in exchange for government agency contracts.

During the televised hearings, his former secretary, 30-year-old Fernanda Karina Somaggio, was questioned for 12 hours about her boss — and afterward was approached about posing nude for the Brazilian edition of Playboy.

For now, there is little fear that the scandal endangers Brazilian democracy, restored in 1985 after a 21-year military regime. The economy seems unaffected, and most analysts think the worst that could happen would be for Silva to give up his re-election bid.

Yet the congressional probe is spreading. Opposition leaders are under scrutiny, and Silva's predecessor, former President Fernando Henrique Cardoso, apparently fears a probe into his government, declaring that the facts of his administration are past history. But that may not save him from scrutiny.

"Corruption is not yogurt, with expiration dates," said PT leader Aloisio Mercadante. "Everything has to be investigated."

TOPICS: Foreign Affairs
KEYWORDS: brazil; lula

1 posted on 07/30/2005 2:49:54 PM PDT by TFine80
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To: Adam-ondi-Ahman; Puppet; gregwest; grjr21


Mail me to get on board.

2 posted on 07/30/2005 2:51:43 PM PDT by TFine80
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To: TFine80

Just another commie pig. Lock 'n load.

3 posted on 07/30/2005 3:13:08 PM PDT by fieldmarshaldj (*Fightin' the system like a $2 hooker on crack*)
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To: TFine80

The left has convinced themselves with their own propoganda that "big business" and government are corrupt and once they gain power that is what they do, be corrupt.

4 posted on 07/30/2005 3:27:56 PM PDT by Mind-numbed Robot (Not all that needs to be done needs to be done by the government.)
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