Brazil arrests push Petrobras probe back to Rousseff's door

jueves 26 de noviembre de 2015 12:00 GYT

By Alonso Soto and Anthony Boadle

BRASILIA Nov 26 (Reuters) - President Dilma Rousseff's austerity program to fix Brazil's shaky finances is again in trouble after her point man in the Senate was arrested in a widening corruption scandal, and it could reignite calls for her impeachment.

"The arrest felt like a nuclear bomb here in the presidential palace," said a Rousseff aide who asked for anonymity. "Unfortunately the political crisis deepens further and complicates our agenda in Congress."

Delcidio do Amaral is the ruling Workers' Party most senior figure in Congress and has been a smooth negotiator with the opposition as Rousseff this year tried to shore up Brazil's overdrawn public accounts and regain the confidence of investors.

But opposition leaders say his arrest shows that the bribery and kickback schemes involving contracts at state-run oil company Petrobras lead to the highest levels of the Workers' Party, in power since 2003.

"It exposes the relation of corruption between the government, politicians and big businesses," said Rubens Bueno, an opposition lawmaker and fierce critic of the government in the lower house of Congress, adding that it is a "disaster" for Rousseff's government.

Amaral was arrested on orders of the Supreme Court for allegedly trying to bribe Petrobras' former international director, Nestor Cervero, out of taking a plea bargain that could implicate the senator and others in bribery in the costly purchase of a refinery in Pasadena, Texas in 2006.

Rousseff is not under investigation in the corruption scandal but was chairwoman of Petrobras when it bought the refinery and when many of the alleged kickback schemes were hatched.

The Petrobras scandal combined with an economic recession led to opposition calls for Rousseff's impeachment earlier this year, and polls show most Brazilians want her unseated.   Continuación...