- Title: BRAZIL: POLITICS - Opposition attacks front-runner Dilma Rousseff over scandal
- Date: 4th September 2010
- Summary: RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL (SEPTEMBER 03, 2010) (REUTERS) COVER OF "O GLOBO" NEWSPAPER WITH HEADLINE READING: "FEDERAL POLICE INVESTIGATES IF RECORDS WEREALSO VIOLATED IN BANCO DO BRASIL" COVER OF "FOLHA DE SAO PAULO" NEWSPAPER WITH HEADLINE READING: "SERRA CLAIMS TO HAVE ALERTED LULA ABOUT ATTACKS ON HIS DAUGHTER" COVER OF "O ESTADO DE SAO PAULO" NEWSPAPER WITH HEADLINE READING: "IRS ALREADY SUSPECTED OF POLITICAL VIOLATIONS"
- Embargoed: 19th September 2010 00:13
- Location: Brazil
- Country: Brazil
- Topics: Domestic Politics
- Reuters ID: LVAQCL18KDQLKMB9HSERBLDHF1B
- Aspect Ratio: 4:3
- Story Text: Brazil's struggling opposition candidate is attacking Friday (September 3) election front-runner Dilma Rousseff, accusing her of involvement in a brewing scandal over illegal access to banking details.
The accusations, which Rousseff denies, are unlikely to threaten the ruling coalition candidate's commanding lead in opinion polls ahead of the October 3 vote unless evidence emerges linking her directly to the illegal acts, analysts said.
The opposition's Jose Serra accused Rousseff this week of being behind the illegal tapping of his daughter's financial records last September.
That follows evidence reported by the media in recent weeks that the personal financial details of four people linked to the opposition PSDB party, including its vice-president, were illegally accessed.
The opposition says the secrecy violations are an attempt to build damaging evidence against its campaign, and on Wednesday (September 1) appealed to the country's top electoral court to quash Rousseff's candidacy over the accusations.
The scandal, which dominated newspaper front pages on Thursday (September 2), is a rare opportunity for the opposition to set the agenda and put Rousseff on the defensive, and was highlighted in its lunchtime television campaign slot.
Brazil's IRS Secretary Otacilio Cartaxo said there was evidence of the tapping, but the case needs further investigation.
"There was the falsification of public federal records. It is the federal police's duty to verify the facts," he said.
The former chief of staff to President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva has surged to a polling lead of over 20 points on Serra, riding a booming economy and Lula's immense popularity to bring an outright victory in the first voting round within reach.
PSDB's Vice-President Eduardo Jorge said the Workers' Party knew about the tapping from the start.
"Of course there is an effort to cover the facts. They (ruling Workers' Party) knew about all of this and are now giving out information little by little as the press is getting hold of more details," he said.
Jose Eduardo Cardoso, head secretary of the Workers' Party, said they were filing a lawsuit against the candidate for false accusations.
"We are filing a lawsuit against the candidate Jose Serra for making false crime accusations against our candidate and our party in the terms of the electoral code," he said.
After meeting Colombian President Jose Manuel Santos on Thursday (September 02), Serra told reporters that Rousseff was being shielded by the government in every scandal.
"The Workers' Party and the government are protecting Dilma (Rousseff), not only in this episode, they are protecting her in everything because this campaign is being characterized for the attempt to shield a candidate," he said.
The former leftist militant came in for tough questioning over the allegations in a Wednesday night interview on the SBT television station. She responded that Serra's allegations of her involvement were "frivolous" and without basis.
Rousseff said the access to Serra's daughter's details was made before her campaign even existed and that the authorities should investigate the cases and punish those responsible if necessary.
She also told reporters that the opposition was trying to use this episode to make up for Serra's tumbling popularity.
"My opponent, his campaign and his party are desperate because everyday that goes by they lose popular support. But I think now they want to win unlawfully," she said.
Political analysts have said the allegations are unlikely to hurt Rousseff for now because there is no firm proof linking the illegal acts directly to her campaign.
Lula's ruling coalition has weathered several corruption scandals in recent years. A more sensational scandal than the current one failed to disrupt his re-election in 2006 when people linked to the ruling Workers' Party were caught trying to buy a dossier against the opposition with stacks of cash.
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