After New Scandal Brazil Is All Eyes at Polls at Election Eve

    Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva has replaced his re-election campaign chief, Ricardo Berzoini, amid ongoing allegations of dirty tricks.

    The departure of Mr Berzoini, who is also president of the governing Workers’ Party (PT), comes just 11 days before the presidential election.

    The Workers’ Party is accused of trying to link the opposition to corruption. President Lula and Mr Berzoini are among those facing investigation by Brazil’s electoral court.

    The affair came to light last Friday, September 15, when two men closely linked to the PT were arrested in São Paulo, in possession of almost $800,000 in cash.

    The police believe the sum was to have paid for a dossier containing corruption allegations against rival politicians.

    The sensitive information allegedly linked opposition politicians to the so-called ‘bloodsuckers scandal’ – a corruption scam in which state health authorities were overcharged for ambulances, with politicians receiving kickbacks.

    As PT president, Berzoini denied detailed knowledge of the dossier. But he did admit to authorizing others to make contact with journalists, with a view to publishing election stories.

    That was enough for President Lula to want to be rid of him.  Berzoini’s replacement as campaign manager is Marco Aurélio Garcia, a former presidential adviser on foreign policy.

    Coming at the end of a day of emergency meetings in Brasí­lia, the removal of Mr Berzoini is doubly significant.

    First, it indicates how serious this late-breaking campaign scandal has become. Second, it suggests President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva wants to distance himself from his own Workers Party in the final days before polling.

    Will the change of personnel draw a line under the affair? Probably not.

    President Lula and Mr Berzoini are among those still under investigation by Brazil’s federal electoral court – as is Freud Godoy, a former presidential aide who resigned on Monday after being linked to the corruption dossier.

    For the first time in this campaign, Brazil’s opposition parties scent blood. They are demanding to know where the $800,000 – a mixture of Brazil and American currency – came from, and who ultimately gave orders for the purchase of the dossier.

    Crucially, all parties are now watching the opinion polls to see whether this scandal will eat into President Lula’s substantial lead.

    Recent polls have indicated 50% support for Lula, which would secure him victory in the first round of voting on October 1st.



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