Graft-tainted Lula faces challenge to come clean

The corruption probe that former Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva is facing, seems more politically-motivated. Though, he has to come clean. He was detained briefly for questioning over a massive embezzlement and bribery conspiracy revolving around state oil giant Petrobras.
It is not yet clear whether reports that Lula has hinted the possibility of running for the presidency again to succeed current President Dilma Rousseff in 2018, might have triggered such charges against him.
Feared by his political foes, Lula is an increasingly divisive figure, loved by his leftist, working-class base but loathed by the better-off.
Involving Rousseff in the corruption charges by the right-wing, which seeks to impeach her, raises eyebrows. She is seen as the extension to Lula’s legacy that kept the right-wing parties away from the presidency for too long.
Indeed, many believe that the right-wing wants the scandal to damage not only the incumbent president, but her potential successor too. But Lula has to disprove the charges. Charisma and political weight may not be enough to acquit him — but evidence can.
Prosecutors accused him of accepting “many” favours from corrupt construction companies seeking Petrobras contracts. But the former president said the accusations of graft levelled against him have no basis in fact and no proof. “I could have millions and millions, but everyone who knows me knows that I was never interested in making money, but rather in transforming the country,” said Lula.
Brazil’s economy hit a breakneck 7.5 percent growth in 2010, his final year in office. Lula gradually became a star of the emerging markets boom of the 2000s, reinforcing alliances across the world’s developing nations.
Probably, political adversaries seek to target the legacy of this high calibre icon who shot to fame from a shoe shiner to the top job in the country. Lula left office in 2011 as a blue-collar hero who presided over a watershed boom and helped lift tens of millions of people from poverty.
His fame surpassed Brazil. Lula is so widely admired as president that Foreign Policy magazine called him a “rock star”, while the US President Barack Obama referred to him as “the man”.
Lula’s popularity in Brazil and the success of the economy during a period of high commodities prices helped him ride out numerous corruption scandals. Yet, ruling Brazil for the two terms and handpicking successor Rousseff to take his place, earned him enmity from foes who seek to eclipse his influence from the political scene. Since then graft allegations have left him fighting for his reputation — and potentially his freedom.
Rising to the power in that giant Latin America state, Lula’s victory had then sent a shockwave across the two Americas, but he quickly calmed market fears by adopting fiscally responsible policies and pragmatic approach.
He was lucky to preside over a so-called golden decade for Latin America, when a rising China’s ravenous demand for raw materials propelled the region’s economies to a historic period of growth.
It appears there are some elements in ruling alliance that seek to exploit corruption charges to oust Workers’ Party from power. The attempts to link the Workers’ Party to the Petrobras scandal have so far been the main strategy followed by right-wing parties and politicians to justify the impeachment of Rousseff.
However, the investigations so far into the Petrobras corruption scheme show that politicians from many parties — not only the Workers’ Party — were involved in the illegal network, including some from the main opposition party, PSDB, and others from former presidential candidate Marina Silva’s Socialist Party (PSB).
It has to be seen whether it is a witch hunt or not. Eyes are on Lula and his party to face the charges and come clean. Lula’s political mastery has never been under greater challenge, yet it has to demonstrate whether he could wield his charisma to brush aside the allegations.

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