RIO DE JANEIRO, Sept. 7 — Brazil’s Prosecutor General Rodrigo Janot on Wednesday charged ex-presidents Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and Dilma Rousseff with obstruction of justice.
The charges were filed a day after the two former heads of state, both members of the left-leaning Workers’ Party (PT), were charged with conspiracy. Janot said the new charges are related to Rousseff’s appointment of Lula in March 2016 as her minister of the presidency, a move many believed was designed to shelter Lula from an ongoing corruption investigation by granting him the protections of a cabinet-level post. Rousseff was impeached shortly afterward by a largely conservative legislature for allegedly allowing her administration to embellish fiscal statements so that public finances appeared more robust.
The creative accounting practice, which is not unusual in Brazil, raised suspicions that Rousseff’s impeachment was politically motivated to make way for a more business-friendly government. The conspiracy charges, which were also brought against two former finance ministers and at least four other members of the PT, were based on allegations that those involved conspired to use the state oil giant Petrobras as a cash cow to enrich themselves. Also on Wednesday, Rousseff’s former chief of staff, Antonio Palocci, testified that Brazilian construction giant Odebrecht gave the Lula Institute 1.3 million U.S. dollars, and had agreed to pay the PT 100 million dollars. The donation to the institute was made in cash and used to buy property in Sao Paulo, according to Palocci, who has been convicted of corruption. Lula, still a revered figure in Brazil for his government’s welfare programs and effective anti-poverty campaigns, is scheduled to testify before federal judge Sergio Moro, who is heading the investigations, on Sept. 13. Lula has already been sentenced to nine and a half years in prison on other corruption charges and an appeal is pending. – XINHUA