The Brazilian weekly Veja, Brazil’s leading news magazine accused presidential candidate Dilma Rousseff’s former aide and current presidential chief of staff, Erenice Guerra, of involvement in a graft scheme.
The latest edition of the publication said Guerra had helped obtain public works contracts for entrepreneurs in exchange for kickbacks to her son’s consultancy.
According to Veja, Israel Guerra, Erenice’s son, help to close a 84 million reais (US$ 49 million) deal between the air cargo company Master Top Airline and Brazil’s postal service after getting a 6% kickback.
Guerra denied the accusations and said her bank accounts were open for the public to scrutinize, Veja said.
At the time of the alleged fraud last year, Guerra was the assistant to then chief-of-staff Rousseff, who opinion polls show is set to win the October 3 election by a landslide.
Questioned about the allegations hours before she was to appear on a live TV debate between the leading presidential candidates, Rousseff flatly denied any such scheme existed under her stewardship.
“Negative. It’s not true,” she said. “I won’t speak on this subject. It’s the business of the government, not that of my campaign,” she said. The accusations were baseless and part of a smear campaign by her main rival, José Serra of the opposition PSDB party, Rousseff said.
“I’m not going to talk about issues that interest my adversary’s negative and slanderous agenda,” said Rousseff.
The latest scandal, which featured prominently in all Brazil’s major newspapers on Sunday, is certain to fuel more attacks against Rousseff by Serra, who led by 20 points in opinion polls earlier this year but now trails by that much.
For weeks, Serra has been accusing Rousseff’s Workers’ Party over a separate scandal involving illegal access to the tax records of his daughter and other PSDB members.
Career civil servant Rousseff has benefited enormously from the support of Brazilian president Luiz Inácio Lula de Silva, who has become Brazil’s most popular president thanks to his communication abilities and the booming economy.