Brazil leader's top aide indicted

One of president's closest confidants charged with conspiracy in a graft scandal.

    Economic prosperity has blunted direct
    criticism of Lula in the scandal [EPA]
    He and Lula founded the leftist Workers party together and he was named chief of staff when Lula became Brazil's first working-class leader.
     
    But in 2005 he was accused of orchestrating the scheme to buy votes with monthly bribes of as much as $13,000 per legislator.
     
    Jose Dirceu

    Once thought to be a possible candidate to succeed Lula in 2010

     

    Entered politics as president of the leftist National Students Union

     

    Resisted Brazil's 1964-85 military government until arrested

     

    Expelled to Mexico with 14 other political prisoners in exchange for kidnapped US ambassador in 1969

     

    Went to Cuba where he had plastic surgery to change looks and underwent guerrilla training.

     

    Sneaked back into Brazil and lived covertly, not even revealing his true identity to wife

     

    Went public only after government decreed political amnesty in 1979

     

    Founded Workers party with Lula, then a leftist labour union leader

     

    Helped craft centrist image that won Lula presidency in 2002 after three failed attempts

    He denied the charges, but was stripped of his right to hold political office for eight years.
     
    Lula has denied any knowledge of wrongdoing as corruption charges have been filed against other prominent party members and allies, including Jose Genoino, the former party president, Delubio Soares, the treasurer, and Anderson Adauto, the transportation minister.
     
    The court has approved charges against all 40 people accused by federal prosecutors of funnelling bribes or taking them. All have denied the charges.
     
    Even if Dirceu, 51, is sent to jail, analysts predict he will not take the president down with him.
     
    "No, he won't go to the courts. That's not his style. Some things are just untouchable, and Dirceu won't go down shooting in every direction," said Alexandre Barros, an analyst with political consultants Early Warning.
     
    Lula remains politically popular despite the scandal because of the prosperity he has promoted in Brazil during his five years in office, Barros added.
     
    "The economy grew more than expected last year, and will again this year," Barros said.
     
    "Brazilians are travelling more, earning more, buying new cars. Turning against Lula would be quixotic ... voters would probably say: 'So what?'"

    SOURCE: Agencies


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