Arrest of Brazil's "maker of presidents" could unmake Rousseff

viernes 26 de febrero de 2016 13:17 GYT

By Anthony Boadle

BRASILIA Feb 26 (Reuters) - Brazilian political strategist Joao Santana earned his nickname 'the maker of presidents' by guiding leftist leaders to power in Latin America and Africa, but his arrest this week could unmake his most important client, President Dilma Rousseff.

A member of Rousseff's inner circle who masterminded her two successful election campaigns, Santana is accused by prosecutors of receiving payment for his services in money illegally siphoned from state oil company Petrobras.

A prize-winning journalist before he became Latin America's most successful campaign strategist, the 63-year-old Santana says the allegations are unfounded and politically motivated.

Rousseff's opponents welcomed the sight of Santana and his wife being taken into police custody on Tuesday. The opposition hopes his arrest will reignite flagging support for their bid to unseat Rousseff by impeachment in Congress, on charges that she deliberately broke budget rules in 2014 to get re-elected.

But a bigger threat to Rousseff could come from the Supreme Electoral Court (TSE) which is investigating charges that her 2014 campaign was funded with dirty money.

If proof emerges that Santana received payments with funds skimmed from Petrobras, the court could invalidate her narrow victory over opposition leader Aecio Neves.

"The risk of the TSE invalidating her elections is more serious now because the case against Santana could become the link between the corruption at Petrobras and the financing of her campaign," said Rafael Cortez, a political analyst at Tendencias, a consulting firm in Sao Paulo.

He gave Rousseff a 55 percent chance of serving out her term through 2018.   Continuación...