SAO PAULO – Prosecutors’ motion for the preventative arrest of former President Luiz Inacio da Silva has added more fuel to Brazil’s political crisis and cast further doubt on the future of current head of state Dilma Rousseff, who on Friday slammed the legal moves against her mentor and predecessor and vowed not to resign.
Lula spent much of Friday meeting with his attorneys and fellow members of the ruling Workers’ Party, or PT, which he co-founded, to analyze his situation and the crisis facing Rousseff’s administration.
The former president, who ruled from 2003 until the end of 2010 and remains a key power broker in Brazil, insists that the effort this week by Sao Paulo prosecutors to secure his arrest on charges of money laundering and document falsification pertaining to luxury real estate is groundless and alleges that political maneuvering is behind the motion.
Their complaint accuses Lula and his wife, Marisa Leticia Lula da Silva, of being the real owners of a beachfront triplex apartment in the seaside resort of Guaruja, near Sao Paulo city, and not reporting that asset to tax authorities.
Their investigation into the property, which is registered in the name of Brazilian construction firm OAS, is parallel to a federal probe into Lula’s alleged involvement in a massive corruption scheme centered on state-controlled oil company Petrobras.
OAS, one of the companies whose executives have been convicted of paying bribes for inflated Petrobras contracts, acquired the property in 2009 from a labor cooperative linked to the PT that built it.
The complaint is surreal in parts, containing allusions to the “Superman” of Friedrich Nietzsche’s “Thus Spoke Zarathustra” and featuring glaring errors such as confusing Hegel with Engels.
Among those coming to Lula’s defense in recent days is a former Paraguayan president removed from office via impeachment in 2012, Fernando Lugo, who visited Lula in Sao Paulo.
“Something like this would never happen in Paraguay, a prosecutor asking to have someone jailed over a suspicion,” Lugo, who governed from 2008 to 2012, told local media at the entrance to Lula’s foundation.
Rousseff also says she sees clear political motivations behind the complaint.
Amid a drive to oust her from office via impeachment and a deluge of rumors about her political future, Rousseff said in a Friday press conference at the Planalto presidential palace that she had no intention of resigning.
“I think the calls for my resignation are an acknowledgment that there are no grounds for impeachment,” said Rousseff, who is accused of massaging budget figures to disguise the size of the deficit.
She added that the idea of her stepping down at the urging of “those who act with an absolute lack of respect for the law” was unthinkable.
Her image already tarnished amid the Petrobras scandal and severe economic woes stemming from the end of the commodities boom, Rousseff could get more bad news when the PT’s powerful ally, the Brazilian Democratic Movement Party, or PMDB, decides at a convention Saturday whether or not to withdraw its support for her government.
The PMDB’s Jorge Picciani, one of the loudest voices in favor of abandoning Rousseff’s coalition, said Friday he was convinced her administration “will fall in the next three months.”
Markets have responded favorably to her political struggles, with the battered real gaining back some of its value, while the opposition gears up for a massive anti-government and pro-impeachment rally scheduled for Sunday.
The PT, for its part, is preparing to hold its own marches in support of Lula and Rousseff in the coming weeks, although a rally Friday organized by the government-allied CUT labor federation drew just a few dozen people to the streets of Sao Paulo in support of the embattled former president.