April 19, 2006

Voters should decide Lula’s fate: Brazil candidate

By Raymond Colitt

BRASILIA, Brazil (Reuters) - Brazil's main opposition
presidential candidate said on Wednesday he did not favor
attempting to remove President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva by
impeachment over a corruption scandal that has already cost
some of his closest aides their jobs.

Opposition politicians have revived the idea of impeaching
Lula after the public prosecutor last week issued a damning
report against the ruling Workers' Party, or PT.

The report did not blame Lula but said the PT had formed a
"criminal organization" to remain in power by buying political
support from other parties.

The PT acknowledges having used illicit funds to finance
election campaigns but denies bribing legislators.

The drawn-out scandal broke out in June and at its peak
threatened to derail Lula's government.

His powerful chief of staff, Jose Dirceu, was an early
casualty and last month Finance Minister Antonio Palocci, who
had won the admiration of investors for guiding Latin America's
largest economy on a prudent fiscal course, was forced to

Lula's approval ratings sank but recent polls have shown
him recovering and likely to beat the main opposition
challenger, Geraldo Alckmin of the Brazilian Social Democracy
Party, in a presidential election in October.

Alckmin told a news conference on Wednesday he did not
agree with renewed calls for Lula's impeachment and that voters
should decide his fate.

"My position is not to give priority to this question of
impeachment but to conclude a series of ongoing
investigations," he said.

"We are months from the election process and the voters
should decide the future of the next four years."

Lula is widely expected to run for a second term although
he has not formally announced his candidacy.

A senator from the large Brazilian Democratic Movement
Party, Almeida Lima, made a formal request on Wednesday for a
Congressional panel to investigate Lula. But other opposition
senators said they sensed the public had had enough of a series
of investigations which have dragged on for months.

"Lula continues to be the Teflon president -- nothing
sticks to him," University of Brasilia political scientist
David Fleischer told an investors' conference in New York.