Election Campaign

Brazilian race gets dirty as vote nears - Tax secrecy laws broken, police say

A war has erupted in Brazil's election campaign. Spurred by a growing disadvantage in voter surveys, the opposition Brazilian Social Democracy Party (PSDB) has launched a full-scale attack against the ruling Workers Party (PT), whose presidential candidate Dilma Rousseff is favored in the polls.

The opposition is accusing the PT of playing dirty tricks to discredit the PSDB's contender José Serra. Complaints have also been lodged against President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who is accused of using government resources to bolster Rousseff's campaign. Specifically, the opposition is fussing over the steady stream of appearances by ministers and even Lula himself at Rousseff rallies.

Despite polls suggesting that Rousseff will make a clean sweep at the ballot box on October 3 — she is predicted to be on course for a first-round victory with 51 percent of the vote — the PT's powerful apparatus is running at full throttle. Even before the official start of the campaign in early July, Lula da Silva had been fined six times by the Superior Electoral Court for coming out in favor of his party’s candidate.

Suspicious coincidences

Lula da Silva, depending on his schedule, has appeared publicly with his preferred candidate once every four days. According to the Rio daily O Globo, Minister of Institutional Relations Alexandre Padilha and Cities Minister Márcio Fortes often coincide suspiciously with Rousseff on the campaign trail, causing additional layouts from their public funds allowances.

The campaign strategy of the PSDB, which has found itself sinking ever-deeper in the polls, is now focused on making sure that an alleged financial spy case scandal will blow up in the PT's face. The José Serra camp has accused PT members working in the Tax Revenue Office of stealing confidential financial information on the opposition candidate's family, particularly his daughter, and making it public in a bid to hurt his image.

The Federal Police has already determined that a violation of the tax secrecy code was made against Serra's daughter, Veronica Allende Serra, and PSDB vice president, Eduardo Jorge. Several local media outlets suggest that the scheme may have been cooked up at PT headquarters, similar to another incident that occurred during the 2006 election. Media reports speculate that the information is being used to compile an incriminating report against Serra.

In the last election, a group of people linked to Lula de Silva’s campaign tried to buy confidential information relating to members of the opposition for the same purpose. At the time, mountains of bills amounting to 1.7 million reais (about euro 800,000), which was to have gone to pay for the reports, were shown on television. It jarred Lula da Silva, who subsequently and surprisingly failed to secure reelection in the first round.

(Published by El País – September 8, 2010)

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