Petrobras moves to center of Brazilian election campaign

Claims of corruption fuel widespread view that state oil company is being mismanaged

Carla Jiménez
Former Petrobras official Paulo Roberto Costa has released damaging information about alleged bribes for contracts.
Former Petrobras official Paulo Roberto Costa has released damaging information about alleged bribes for contracts.EFE

Brazilians are waiting to see how claims of widespread corruption at state oil company Petrobras will affect President Dilma Rousseff’s re-election run.

On Sunday, a former top official at Petrobras, Paulo Roberto Costa, released the names of dozens of politicians who are allegedly involved in a widespread bribes-for-contracts scheme.

Many of these politicians are members of, or have ties to, Rousseff’s own Workers’ Party (PT), as well as the Brazilian Democratic Movement Party (PMDB).

Although the police have yet to investigate the truth of the claims, they only add to a widespread feeling in Brazil that the state-owned firm is being mismanaged.

Petrobras is being destroyed by political schemes and corruption” Marina Silva, Socialist contender

Petrobras is an issue of national concern because the entire country identifies with the company. Many citizens have bought shares in it, often using their retirement funds.

The president’s adversaries know this, and are seeking to capitalize on the news to prove that Rousseff’s government is inefficient.

“During this campaign, I have been slandered and accused of going against Brazil’s best interests. While this lie is being promoted through all possible channels, Petrobras is being destroyed by political schemes and corruption,” said Rousseff’s main rival in the presidential race, Marina Silva of the Brazilian Socialist Party (PSB).

Rousseff has questioned Silva’s plans for the oil company. During one of their televised debates, the Socialist contender suggested that Petrobras would not be her government’s sole energy priority.

The Petrobras refinery in Manaus.
The Petrobras refinery in Manaus.PETROBRAS

“I think this does not harm the government in any way, because nobody in government has been accused of anything,” said the president on Sunday at a meeting with the press.

Fernando Abrucio, a political scientist, said voters are aware that scandals that break in the middle of a campaign are all part and parcel of political warfare, and should be treated with caution.

There is still plenty of time before October 5 for other skeletons in the closet to emerge. The social democrat candidate Aécio Neves is struggling with accusations that he favored relatives in the awarding of contracts to build an airport, and it has been suggested that the airplane that Socialist candidate Eduardo Campos was traveling in when he crashed on August 13 was bought with funds from secret party accounts, according to newspaper Folha de S. Paulo.

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