Brazil prosecutor's move against Lula clouds ruling party's outlook

miércoles 4 de mayo de 2016 16:03 GYT

By Anthony Boadle

BRASILIA May 4 (Reuters) - A request by Brazil's prosecutor general for a Supreme Court investigation of ex-President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva raises the odds against the ruling Workers Party emerging from scandal in time for the 2018 presidential election, analysts said on Wednesday.

Already hurt by fallout from a massive corruption scheme, and impeachment proceedings against President Dilma Rousseff, the leftist party is largely resigned to her removal.

Few believe she will escape conviction if the Senate votes next week to suspend her from office and open a trial over alleged budget irregularities, as expected.

But the Workers Party, in power since 2003, has long considered Lula its ace in the hole for future elections.

Rousseff's mentor and a hero to millions of poor voters, Lula remained popular among many even as Brazil's economy entered recession and prosecutors alleged that he may have benefited from kickbacks and obstructed justice in a probe into graft at state oil company Petrobras.

The leftist icon has denied any wrongdoing. But a request by the prosecutor to press charges against him at the Supreme Court - made public on Tuesday - escalates Lula's legal problems, diminishing his ability to rally the party and mount a credible opposition to emboldened rivals.

"Lula is the element that ties everything together," said Paulo Pimenta, a well-known Workers Party congressman from the southern state of Rio Grande do Sul.

According to documents made public on Tuesday, Prosecutor General Rodrigo Janot has charged Lula with participating in a scheme to stop former Petrobras executive Nestor Cervero from collaborating with the sweeping investigation into political kickbacks at the state oil firm.   Continuación...