Mired in Scandal, Brazil’s Lula Offers Ministries to New Allies

Scandal shocked Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva announced Thursday a new plan to curb corruption but as he did more claims of wrongdoings by his Workers Party, PT, and trusted officials were made public.

Shortly before Mr. Lula signed four decrees facilitating exposure of corruption allegations and harsh punishments for government employees involved in graft, Congress member Roberto Jefferson claimed that the ruling party and leading officials managed and split a monthly purse of 1,2 million US dollars skimmed from a government owned electricity company.


Mr. Jefferson, a junior partner of the ruling coalition, early June revealed the existence of a bribes ring to ensure Congressional support for the administration’s initiatives, which finished forcing the resignation of President Lula’s cabinet chief and most trusted political advisor who masterminded his 2002 victory, José Dirceu.


However, as with all of Mr. Jefferson’s accusations names were exposed but no hard evidence to support them.


Several Congressional investigation committees have been named, some overlapping, with recriminations against those allegedly involved.


“It is ever clearer that the government and the PT used those mechanisms to stuff the party’s coffers and broaden its base of support in Congress” said Senator ílvaro Dias.


“Public opinion is fed up with the scandals and the government must understand that it cannot distort things any more”.


Even worse the President’s “anti-corruption package” as labelled by the press was received with skepticism in Congress.


“Measures like those would be welcome if it weren’t for the fact that the President seems to be closing the paddock after all the livestock has escaped”, said opposition Deputy Bismarck Maia.


“If he really is interested in investigating and punishing corruption, why didn’t he let Congress work on the issues from the very beginning when the first allegations were made public”, added Mr. Maia.


But a weakened Mr. Lula da Silva, who until a month ago was forecasted to steam roll in his October 2006 re-election bid, now has in range for other presidential hopefuls and his Workers Party is rapidly losing its unstained credibility.


In a desperate effort to get his administration moving again Mr. Lula da Silva has reached a “governance” understanding with the center right PMDB (Partido do Movimento Democrático Brasileiro), which has a leading representation in Congress.


The six point agreement includes basically four ministries for the PMDB and a closer working relation with Congress. But ruling party senator Cristovam Buarque is not convinced.


“The alliance with PMDB does not exist. Congressional leaders can reach an agreement but there’s no certainty junior members will vote. The party is under the control of governors and grass roots, and they will have their eyes set on October 2006. Why should they help President Lula recover political initiative?” argues Senator Buarque.


Mr. Lula da Silva also faces mounting pressure from the most orthodox factions of his Workers Party who feel that his administration’s market oriented policies and closeness with the IMF and the international banking system are contrary to the party’s Socialist, neo-Marxist origin.


This article appeared originally in Mercopress – www.mercopress.com.

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