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    Rousseff stares down opposition, inducts Lula in Cabinet
    March 17, 2016, 5:09 am

    File Photo: Former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (first from right) with President Dilma Rousseff [Xinhua]

    File Photo: Former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (first from right) with President Dilma Rousseff [Xinhua]

    Former Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva has been named chief of staff for President Dilma Rousseff, the president said on Wednesday. Protests in several big cities across the country, including the capital Brasilia, greeted Rousseff’s announcement.

    At a press conference held hours after the nomination was announced, Rousseff said she was seeking economic balance and control of inflation with this move.

    “The arrival of President Lula da Silva to this ministry is important and relevant. First of all, he brings invaluable political experience. Second, he has deep knowledge of the country’s needs and a commitment to the strategic policies we need to adopt,” she added.

    Opposition claims the move was meant to shield Lula,  who was charged last week with money laundering and fraud as part of a graft probe, from prosecution.

    Lula, Brazil’s first working-class president and a hero to millions of Brazilians, is still an influential figure in the South American nation. His 2003-10 government helped lift an estimated 40 million out of poverty and raised the nation’s international profile.

    Rousseff vowed on Wednesday that the appointment would bring Lula’s experience and political knowledge to the government.

    She also confirmed that the former president will seek to bring financial stability to Brazil, “a compromise … which he acted upon during the eight years of his government.”

    The position of chief of staff in Brazil is the most important in the cabinet, tasked with keeping all policy matters on track.

    Lula will replace Jaques Wagner, who will now lead Rousseff’s group of political advisors. Lula will also be responsible for coordinating the Economic and Social Development Council and for heading up relations with Congress.

    Last week, a Sao Paulo judge handed over Lula’s case to federal judge Sergio Moro, who is overseeing the sweeping corruption investigation into Petrobras.

    However, the position of chief of staff confers upon Lula immunity from all prosecution, except from the Supreme Court, which is seen as favorable to Lula and Rousseff’s ruling Workers’ Party.

    Asked whether Lula entered the cabinet to gain protection from corruption charges against him, Rousseff said such accusations sought to attack the Supreme Court, which is the only court able to judge current cabinet members.

    She added that the accusations against Lula were “strange,” since “no evidence has been found against him”.

    “Let us tell the truth: Lula’s arrival in my government strengthens my government and some do not want that to happen,” Rousseff said.

    Ronaldo Caiado, leader in the Senate for the Democrats Party, lambasted Lula and said the former head of state was “trying to hide” and that nobody from his party would now deal with Rousseff’s government, O Globo newspaper reported.

    Renan Calheiros, Senate leader for the PMDB, the Workers’ Party main ally in the government, told the press that Lula enjoyed good relations with Congress but that it could not be said if this move would help to resolve Brazil’s political crisis.

    Congress is due to hear the proceedings against the president, on grounds that she broke budgetary guidelines to boost her 2014 re-election campaign, but is awaiting guidelines on how to proceed from the court first.

    Rousseff had won 51.6 per cent of the valid votes cast in the 2014 elections.

    Now, with opposition parties ratcheting up political tensions, there are serious doubts over whether Latin America’s biggest nation will remain under the control of a Workers party (PT) committed to tackling inequality.

    On Wednesday, in the capital Brasilia, riot police fired pepper spray at more than 5,000 demonstrators who filled the streets outside the presidential palace and Congress building demanding Rousseff’s resignation and Lula’s arrest.


    TBP and Agencies

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