Brazil’s Capital Celebrates 50th Birthday Amid Massive Corruption Case

BrasiliaWhat’s happening in Brazilian capital Brasília could affect the campaign of front-runner José Serra in this October’s presidential race in Brazil. The acting governor of Brazil’s federal district resigned this week in connection with a corruption scandal that has tarnished one of the main opposition parties.

The resignation of Paulo Octávio effectively leaves the federal district of the capital Brasília without a government. The federal district governor José Roberto Arruda, was jailed this month for interference with an investigation into a suspected racketeering scheme.

Arruda, Octávio (elected in 2006) and several of their aides are accused of getting kickbacks from construction firms in exchange for public works contracts. They deny the charges. Octávio owns one of the biggest construction firms in Brasília.

The scandal, widely publicized since it broke in November, could hurt the chances of Arruda’s conservative Democrat’s party (DEM) in the October 3 general election.

“This is unfortunate and it will be used against us,” DEM chief Rodrigo Maia admitted to the local media.

DEM is the main ally of São Paulo state Governor José Serra of the centrist PSDB party, who leads Lula’s chief of staff Dilma Rousseff and incumbent candidate in the presidential race, according to recent opinion polls.

Serra had been expected to choose a DEM running mate as his vice-presidential candidate but may now have to try bringing on board Minas Gerais state Governor Aécio Neves from his own party.

Political analysts say the scandal may make it more difficult for the opposition to take the moral high ground in campaigning for the October election. It had planned to remind voters this year of a 2005 campaign financing scandal involving Lula’s Workers’ Party, which forced the resignation of most of its leadership.

The Federal district governorship is expected to fall on the acting president of the city’s council, Wilson Lima, who has been in office for a few weeks since the corruption scandal also forced the resignation of his predecessor Leonardo Prudente.

“I have nothing to repent for, I am responsible for all my acts, I love this city (Brasília). All my efforts to ensure the governance of the city had as a priority avoiding that the political autonomy of the city does not fall prey of a judicial ruling,” said former governor Alves in his resignation letter.

Analysts interpret that the “political autonomy” to which Alves refers is the possibility that given the dimension of the corruption scandal and its “public opinion commotion impact” it could justify a federal intervention, meaning president Lula would nominate a governor for the rest of the period.

If that is not the case Wilson Lima will remain in the governor’s seat until January 2011, when the new authorities elected October 3 take office.

The scandal has had some unexpected consequences in a very special year for Brasília that next April 21 will be celebrating its half century of existence, built in the heartland of Brazil, helping to develop the area and take the concentration of power away from Rio de Janeiro.

Another setback has been the freezing of infrastructure works recently begun for the coming 2014 World Cup to be hosted by Brazil and with Brasilia one of the cities where several matches are to be played.

Mercopress

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