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Brazil AG says Lula should be barred from Cabinet

Published:Sunday | April 10, 2016 | 12:00 AM
In this August 7, 2014, file photo, Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff and former Brazilian President Luiz Ignacio Lula da Silva attend a Workers Party’s campaign rally in Sao Paulo, Brazil.

Brazil's attorney general has recommended that the Supreme Court block former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva from becoming chief of staff to President Dilma Rousseff, saying it would disrupt investigations into the corruption-kickback scheme at state-owned oil company Petrobras.

Rodrigo Janot's recommendation on Thursday reversed an earlier opinion he expressed a few weeks ago when he said that Silva's appointment was legitimate. He said he changed his mind after another examination of the case.

Rousseff appointed Silva to her Cabinet in March in a move widely seen as an attempt to help shield him from potential detention as part of the Petrobras probe. As a Cabinet minister, Silva can only be prosecuted with the approval of the Supreme Court.

Supreme Court Justice Gilmar Mendes temporarily blocked his appointment, saying it was aimed at helping Silva get around his legal woes. The full court is to rule on April 20 whether to uphold Mendes' injunction.

DEVIATION OF PURPOSE

Janot said there was a "deviation of purpose" in Silva's appointment, which would "disrupt the progress of the criminal investigation".

Prosecutors are investigating if renovations made at a luxury beachfront apartment in Sao Paulo state and another project at a country house used by Silva and his family constituted favours in exchange for political benefit.

Both residences have undergone major renovations paid for by construction companies that for decades have had contracts with the federal government. Those enterprises are also at the centre of the scandal gripping Petrobras in which prosecutors allege that US$2 billion was paid in bribes to obtain contracts.

Police said that two robbers broke into the country house located in the rural city of Atibaia on Thursday and made off with a box of Cuban cigars, a television set, and jars of cream with the name of Silva's wife written on them. Two suspects were arrested while they were hiding the stolen goods in a wooded area.

Janot made his recommendations to the Supreme Court just days before the Lower House of congress is to vote on whether to impeach Rousseff on charges of manipulating budget accounts to allow her administration to boost spending to shore up votes before her 2014 re-election campaign.

She has vehemently denied committing any crime and said previous presidents made use of similar accounting techniques. She has called the impeachment effort an attempted coup.

If two-thirds of the 513 legislators vote for impeachment, the proceedings move forward with a trial in the Senate.