July 14, 2005

Brazil opposition leader Lula an idiot or corrupt

BRASILIA, Brazil (Reuters) - A senator's remark in Congress
that President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva is an idiot or corrupt
on Thursday set off tempers and halted a congressional probe
into a scandal threatening the government.

Sen. Arthur Virgilio was referring to the unfolding
corruption scandal in which Lula's Workers' Party is said to
have bribed lawmakers of other parties in Congress to push
through government measures.

"We are being governed by at least an idiot," said
Virgilio, leader of the opposition PSDB party in the Senate.

"Enough of this story that Lula didn't know of things. I am
not a member of this corrupt government. In the best of
hypotheses, he is an idiot. In the worst of hypotheses, he is
corrupt," he said from the podium before a plenary session of

Virgilio, who is not a member of the investigating panel,
triggered a shouting match in the inquiry room next to the
Senate floor. The chaos led inquiry chairman Sen. Delcidio
Amaral to halt the probe for the day.

Lula has so far avoided being swept up by a whirlwind of
accusations from the media and the congressional inquiry that
have already forced Lula's right-hand-man, Cabinet Chief Jose
Dirceu and several other Workers' Party leaders to resign or
step down.

In an opinion poll released earlier this week, Lula's
public approval rating rose slightly since the scandal broke
last month.