Brazil’s former president, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, will become the new chief of staff for President Dilma Rousseff, a senior lawmaker says.
The move shields Lula from possible prosecution by a federal judge investigating a massive corruption scandal named Operation Car Wash.
Under Brazilian law, cabinet members can only be tried by the Supreme Court.
Lula was questioned two weeks ago over allegations of money laundering connected to Operation Car Wash.
Fight against impeachment
Lawmaker Jose Guimaraes of the governing Workers’ Party, to which both Lula and President Rousseff belong, tweeted (in Portuguese) that current chief of staff Jaques Wagner had “shown greatness and selflessness on the day of his birthday” and ceded his post to Lula.
Lula flew to the capital, Brasilia, on Tuesday for talks with President Rousseff.
After a four-hour meeting, they agreed to reconvene on Wednesday.
As chief of staff, Lula is expected to lead the fight against moves in Congress to impeach President Rousseff over allegations she manipulated Brazil’s account books to hide a growing deficit.
Analysts say President Rousseff is hoping that Lula will use his political nous and influence with members of Congress to block impeachment proceedings.
Lula: ‘Man of the people’
- Born 27 October 1945 into a poor, illiterate family in Pernambuco state
- Worked in Sao Paulo’s car industry
- Achieved national fame leading strikes during Brazil’s dictatorship
- In 1980 he founded the Workers’ Party (PT), the first major socialist party in Brazil’s history
- Elected president in 2002 at the fourth attempt and went on to serve two terms
- Pumped billions of dollars into social programmes such as Bolsa Familia that benefited tens of millions of Brazilians
- When he left office in 2010 he said: “I am leaving government to live life on the streets. Man of the people that I always was, I will be more of the people than ever before”
- Currently under investigation over his deals with construction firms
The two politicians have been close for decades. Lula was Ms Rousseff’s political mentor and she is his hand-picked successor.
On 4 March, Lula was briefly detained and questioned over allegations of money laundering connected to Operation Car Wash, a massive investigation into corruption at the state oil giant, Petrobras.
Prosecutors have since filed fraud and money laundering charges against him. However, the charges have yet to be accepted by a judge.
The case has been transferred to federal judge Sergio Moro, who is in charge of Operation Car Wash.
But if Lula is confirmed as a cabinet member, Judge Moro will not be able to investigate or try him.
Lula has consistently denied any wrongdoing and alleges the allegations are politically motivated.
He had recently hinted that he was considering running for president again in the 2018 elections.