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Voters should decide Lula's fate -Brazil candidate

By Staff
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BRASILIA, Brazil, Apr 20 (Reuters) Brazil's main opposition presidential candidate said he did not favor attempting to remove President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva by impeachment over a corruption scandal that has already cost some of his closest aides their jobs.

Opposition politicians have revived the idea of impeaching Lula after the public prosecutor last week issued a damning report against the ruling Workers' Party, or PT.

The report did not blame Lula but said the PT had formed a ''criminal organization'' to remain in power by buying political support from other parties.

The PT acknowledges having used illicit funds to finance election campaigns but denies bribing legislators.

The drawn-out scandal broke out in June and at its peak threatened to derail Lula's government.

His powerful chief of staff, Jose Dirceu, was an early casualty and last month Finance Minister Antonio Palocci, who had won the admiration of investors for guiding Latin America's largest economy on a prudent fiscal course, was forced to resign.

Lula's approval ratings sank but recent polls have shown him recovering and likely to beat the main opposition challenger, Geraldo Alckmin of the Brazilian Social Democracy Party, in a presidential election in October.

Alckmin told a news conference yesterday he did not agree with renewed calls for Lula's impeachment and that voters should decide his fate.

''My position is not to give priority to this question of impeachment but to conclude a series of ongoing investigations,'' he said.

''We are months from the election process and the voters should decide the future of the next four years.'' Lula is widely expected to run for a second term although he has not formally announced his candidacy.

A senator from the large Brazilian Democratic Movement Party, Almeida Lima, made a formal request on Wednesday for a Congressional panel to investigate Lula. But other opposition senators said they sensed the public had had enough of a series of investigations which have dragged on for months.

''Lula continues to be the Teflon president -- nothing sticks to him,'' University of Brasilia political scientist David Fleischer told an investors' conference in New York.

REUTERS SC PM0443

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