The Editorial Board, 18 marzo 2016 / THE NEW YORK TIMES
President Dilma Rousseff of Brazil is fighting for political survival as calls for her impeachment grow louder amid a widening corruption investigation and a tanking economy.
Astonishingly, however, she appears to have felt she had political capital to spare last week when she appointed her predecessor and political mentor, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, to be chief of staff, a move that largely shields him, for now, from prosecution in the corruption scandal involving his ties to giant construction companies.
Ms. Rousseff’s explanation was tone deaf and ridiculous. She characterized the appointment as an opportunity to bring back to the government a maverick politician and talented negotiator to help Brazil contend with an assortment of crises, including the spread of the Zika virus.
“If Lula’s arrival strengthens my government, and there are people who don’t want it strengthened, then what can I do?” Ms. Rousseff said.
Ms. Rousseff has now created yet another crisis, one of confidence in her own judgment. Mr. da Silva, who led Brazil from 2003 to 2010, has been dealing with charges of illicit self-enrichment since he left office. Close associates, including his former chief of staff, José Dirceu de Oliveira e Silva, and the former treasurer of the ruling Workers’ Party, João Vaccari Neto, are in prison for corruption.
Early this month, investigators raided Mr. da Silva’s home and took him into custody for questioning. Prosecutors then sought to arrest him, accusing him of having accepted $200,000 worth of renovations for a beachfront property investigators believed he planned to occupy. Federal prosecutors are also investigating whether the millions of dollars Mr. da Silva and his foundation have received from companies linked to the scandal surrounding Petrobras, the national oil company, were actually bribes.
Mr. da Silva, a leftist leader, says he is not guilty and is entitled to his day in court. But he and Ms. Rousseff want to delay that day for as long as possible by giving him the protections from prosecution that cabinet members enjoy.
Roughly 50 officials — including politicians from other political parties — have been implicated in the Petrobras scandal, and Brazilians are rightly disgusted with their leaders. This latest move by the governing party sent protesters to the streets to demand Ms. Rousseff’s resignation and to express their outrage at what amounts to blatant cronyism. If her latest blunder pushes the impeachment effort across the finish line, Ms. Rousseff will have only herself to blame.