Lula's legacy threatened as Brazil crisis simmers
By Paulo Prada and Asher Levine
Sao Paulo Aug 21 (Reuters) - An ongoing political and economic crisis once more threatens to fell the tallest tree in Brazil's political landscape: former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.
His once-sterling legacy, previously tarnished by a Congressional vote-buying scandal, is being sullied further by economic and political turmoil that has driven approval ratings for his hand-picked successor into single digits.
And a far-reaching corruption probe around state-run oil company Petroleo Brasileiro SA, or Petrobras, has implicated key aides and associates, once more staining his scandal-plagued Workers' Party, now in its 13th year in power.
Although Lula has not been charged with a crime - and it is too early to write off a leader who has dominated Brazilian politics for well over a decade - love for the man Barack Obama once called "the most popular politician on earth," is waning.
Police this month again arrested his former chief of staff, already convicted in the vote-buying scheme, and charged him with taking bribes while in office. And prosecutors are offering plea deals to construction company executives with close ties to Lula who are now at the heart of the Petrobras investigation.
Combined, it means that even long-time allies are wavering.
"Lula presided over what many believed was the most successful government in Brazil's democratic history," says Carlos Alberto Libanio Christo, a leftist writer, monk, activist and former Lula advisor who is better known as Frei Betto. "But the foundations he left behind are proving not so solid."
The disenchantment signals the biggest shift in Brazilian politics since 2002, when voters, once wary of Lula as a leftist radical, decided to trust him with what is now Latin America's biggest economy. Continuación...