Lula's chief of staff resigns over election-related scandal
A corruption scandal hit the campaign of Brazil's favoured presidential candidate Dilma Rousseff and led Thursday to the resignation of the government's chief of staff, dpa reported.
Erenice Guerra resigned as chief of staff of the government of Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva amid allegations that her son engaged in influence peddling and illegally requested donations for Rousseff's presidential campaign.
When the incident happened, Guerra was deputy to then-chief of staff Rousseff. The ruling-party candidate in the October 3 election - Lula's chosen successor known as "iron lady" - denied any involvement.
"Where is the evidence that I was involved in this case?" Rousseff said Thursday.
"They have to prove that one did something. You don't have to prove that you didn't do anything. How am I involved in that case?" she said. "I learned about it in the papers."
Guerra succeeded Rousseff as chief of staff in April, when the latter went on the campaign trail. Government spokesman Marcelo Baumbach said Lula had accepted Guerra's resignation and planned to appoint a successor by next week.
Rousseff has risen to become the favorite in the upcoming presidential election, with recent opinion polls showing that she might win an outright majority in the first-round vote on October 3.
The daily Folha de Sao Paulo published Thursday interviews which compromise Guerra's son.
In the interviews, representatives of the firm EDRB said they wanted a loan from the Brazilian Development Bank (BNDES) and met with Erenice Guerra to discuss it when when she was Rousseff's deputy.
Two months after that meeting, they said, they got confirmation from the company Capital, which has links to the official's son Israel Guerra, that they would get a loan for around 5.2 billion dollars to finance a solar energy project in northeastern Brazil.
In order to get the loan, Capital demanded a 5-per-cent commission in addition to a hefty donation to Rousseff's campaign, EDRB consultant Rubnei Quicoli told Folha de Sao Paulo.
In her resignation letter, Guerra said she was the victim of a "sordid campaign" to destroy her image and "artificially create and feed a scandal atmosphere" leading up to the presidential election. The allegations, she added, also sought to discredit Lula's government.
The media "do not have any evidence whatsoever" to back up the headlines that have led to her resignation, she stressed.
The opposition was quick to demand Guerra's resignation as chief of staff.
"Otherwise, this will be just another to be brushed under the carpet among the crimes in which (Lula's) Workers' Party and its main leaders are involved," the centre-right Party of Brazilian Social Democracy said. Its candidate, Jose Serra, is Rousseff's main rival.
So far, the opposition's accusations have not affected the campaign to succeed Lula in January. An opinion poll made public by the Datafolha Institute Thursday said that Rousseff has the support of 51 per cent of the voters, to Serra's 27 per cent.