Brazilian police arrested on Thursday a key opposition party governor on bribery charges, potentially hurting the right wing’s chances in the general election this year.
José Roberto Arruda, governor of the federal district of the capital Brasília, is accused of taking kickbacks from companies seeking public works contracts.
The scandal, widely publicized since it broke in November, could taint the image of Arruda’s right-wing Democrats party (DEM) before the Oct. 3 general election.
DEM is the leading ally of the leading presidential hopeful, São Paulo state Governor José Serra of the centrist PSDB party.
Arruda turned himself over to police in Brasília after the Supreme Court voted 12-2 in favor of his arrest. It said he had attempted to obstruct investigations by trying to bribe a witness. The public prosecutor charged him with attempted bribery and racketeering. He denies the charges.
Prosecutors said they would request an interim administrator for the district because Arruda’s deputies were cited in the alleged kickbacks.
In November, video footage leaked of Arruda accepting large amounts of money during his 2006 election campaign. He said the money was used to distribute panetonnes and toys to poor children in Brasilia.
Other politicians were seen stuffing wads of cash into their pockets, underwear and socks. One group was shown praying with an Arruda aide and thanking God for the cash they had received.
The opposition had planned to remind voters this year of a 2005 campaign financing scandal involving President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva’s Workers’ Party, PT, known as the mensalão (the big monthly allowance).
Now, analysts say, it will be difficult for the DEM to take the moral high ground.