Lula sworn-in amid protests

Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva

Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva

BRASILIA. – Ex-Brazilian leader Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva was sworn in as President Dilma Rousseff’s chief of staff yesterday amid a deepening political crisis as protests against his appointment continued for a second day and a judge sought to block the move.

Soon after the swearing-in ceremony, the federal judge in Brasilia issued an injunction to suspend the appointment on the grounds it prevented “the free exercise of justice”.

Prosecutors have charged Lula with money laundering and fraud as part of a sweeping graft probe centred on state oil company Petrobras. The former president’s appointment as a minister would provide him immunity from prosecution by all but the Supreme Court.

The government can appeal the injunction in a higher court but the judge’s move could raise tensions that are already running high between the executive and the judiciary.

During the swearing-in ceremony, President Rousseff strongly criticised the release on Wednesday of a taped telephone conversation between her and Lula that was made public by another federal judge, calling it illegal and anti-democratic.

“Convulsing Brazilian society with lies, with reprehensible practices violates constitutional rights and as well as the rights of citizens,” said President Rousseff, who is herself facing mounting pressure to quit.

Lula’s supporters clashed briefly with opponents of his Workers’ Party outside the presidential palace before the ceremony. Police said they used pepper spray to stop it and move away some 300 opposition protesters.

Hundreds of anti-government protesters calling for President Rousseff’s impeachment and Lula’s arrest also blocked the central Avenue Paulista in Sao Paulo. – Reuters.

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