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Brazil's Ex-President Takes Cabinet Role, Hindering Corruption Case

Brazil's former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva — currently embroiled in a massive corruption scandal — has accepted a post as the chief of staff for current President Dilma Rousseff.

Critics allege it's a ploy to shield Lula, as he's known in Brazil, from prosecution: as a member of the Cabinet, the ex-president could only be judged by the Supreme Court.

Earlier this month, Lula's house, as well as the homes of his family members, were raided as a part of an extensive investigation into corruption and money-laundering. The alleged misconduct involves Brazil's national oil company, Petrobras.

As Bill reported at the time:

"Prosecutors say they're building a case that alleges millions of dollars' worth of payments and goods were funneled from Petrobras, Brazil's biggest company, to Silva and his associates. An official prosecutor's statement lists real estate, construction work and luxury furniture as some of the alleged ill-gotten gains, along with suspicious cash donations.

"The searches and questions for Silva come a month after Joao Santana, a key campaign strategist for both Silva and Rousseff, was arrested, with the authorities alleging that millions in illegal payments had been routed to Santana and his wife through foreign banks."

Now the former president has rejoined the government — putting him out of the reach of the federal judge spearheading the corruption investigation.

NPR's Lourdes Garcia-Navarro, reporting from Rio de Janeiro, says there have been calls for Lula's arrest.

"Sitting President Dilma Rousseff is herself in the process of being impeached," Lourdes reports, "and the move to bring Lula back is also a bid to bolster her position in congress, where her impeachment is being decided."

Rousseff was chief of staff under Silva from 2005-2010, the Associated Press notes.

Rousseff and Lula deny allegations of wrongdoing, the wire service says.

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Camila Flamiano Domonoske covers cars, energy and the future of mobility for NPR's Business Desk.

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