Brazil`s Lula on verge of joining government: sources

Brazil`s ex-president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva is about to join the government of his embattled protege Dilma Rousseff, administration sources said Tuesday, as both seek to save their political lives.

Brasília: Brazil`s ex-president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva is about to join the government of his embattled protege Dilma Rousseff, administration sources said Tuesday, as both seek to save their political lives.

The move, which would be hugely divisive, would amount to a risky bet that the aura around Lula`s administration, a period of watershed prosperity in Brazil, still outshines the economic and political mess the country has descended into under Rousseff.

"There are two possibilities for Lula in the government: chief of staff or cabinet secretary," an administration source told AFP, saying the former president would travel to Brasilia Monday or Tuesday to discuss his options with Rousseff in person.

Speculation had swirled in recent days that such a move was imminent, as both Lula and Rousseff`s political stars waned.

He is facing charges linked to a massive corruption scandal at state oil company Petrobras, and she faces an impeachment drive, a deep recession and mass protests.

Besides trying to leverage Lula`s charisma to escape the current crisis, a cabinet appointment would have the added bonus for the ruling Workers` Party of saving Lula, its co-founder, from prosecution in ordinary court.

Ministers can only be tried before the Supreme Court in Brazil.

But the administration source denied the move was aimed at protecting Lula from arrest.

"The goal is to help the president confront the impeachment process... (and) not to escape justice," the source said, adding: "Lula is the only man capable of resolving" the current crisis.

Citing administration sources, newspaper O Globo reported that Lula was prepared to accept a post on condition Rousseff agree to overhaul her economic policy to make it "more focused on rebooting growth."The latest political twist in the ailing South American giant came after one million to three million Brazilians flooded the streets Sunday in nationwide protests calling for Rousseff`s departure.

Protesters said they were fed up with the country`s worst recession in 25 years, the sweeping Petrobras scandal and the government`s complete inability to pass laws in Congress.

The historic rebuff on the streets left Rousseff few options as Congress geared up to relaunch stalled impeachment proceedings.

The Supreme Court is expected to set out the rules for an impeachment process on Wednesday or Thursday.

That will allow Rousseff`s enemies in Congress to go ahead with an impeachment attempt that began last year but stalled over technicalities.

Lula, a former labor leader and a hero to the poor and working-class, for his part appears increasingly to be backed into a corner.

On Monday Brazil`s top anti-corruption judge took over the money-laundering case filed against him by Sao Paulo state prosecutors.

The judge, Sergio Moro, is the spearhead of the massive investigation into the Petrobras scandal, which has upended the political and business worlds in Brazil.

Investigators allege construction companies conspired with Petrobras execs to inflate contracts to the tune of $2 billion, passing some of the dirty cash on to politicians and parties.Rousseff was chairman at Petrobras during much of the period in question, but does not face charges so far.

However, the legal onslaught now threatens a key ally.

Lula, who was president from 2003 to 2010, is far more popular than she is and provides much of her credibility with the left-wing base.

Lula, who vigorously denies the charges, says that prosecutors have only spurred him into deciding on a comeback attempt when Rousseff`s second term ends in 2018.

But planning the next presidential election may be premature with Rousseff battling just to survive her second term.

The impeachment case rests on allegations that Rousseff`s government illegally manipulated accounts to boost public spending during her 2014 re-election campaign.

It is unclear whether she would muster enough votes in Congress to survive.

Her Workers` Party is in a shaky coalition with the bigger PMDB. On Saturday, the centrist party discussed pulling out of the ruling coalition altogether, with a decision to be taken in 30 days.

PMDB leader Michel Temer is Rousseff`s vice president and as such would replace her automatically should she be impeached -- a tempting incentive for the biggest party in Congress.

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