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Protests in Brazil after Lula’s appointment as chief of staff

Demonstrators rally for Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff's impeachment along Paulista Avenue, in Sao Paulo, Brazil on March 16, 2016. Rousseff named her predecessor Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva as her chief of staff Wednesday, sparing him possible arrest for corruption as she seeks to fend off a damaging crisis. Ministerial immunity will now protect him from prosecution in ordinary court as cabinet ministers can only be tried before the Supreme Court in Brazil. AFP PHOTO / Miguel SCHINCARIOL / AFP / Miguel Schincariol

Demonstrators rally for Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff’s impeachment along Paulista Avenue, in Sao Paulo, Brazil on March 16, 2016. Rousseff named her predecessor Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva as her chief of staff Wednesday, sparing him possible arrest for corruption as she seeks to fend off a damaging crisis. Ministerial immunity will now protect him from prosecution in ordinary court as cabinet ministers can only be tried before the Supreme Court in Brazil. AFP PHOTO / Miguel SCHINCARIOL / AFP / Miguel Schincariol

Tens of thousands have called President Dilma Rousseff to resign after decision to appoint her predecessor as chief of staff.

Protests have erupted across Brazilian cities after President Dilma Rousseff appointed her predecessor, Luiz Inacio “Lula” da Silva, as chief of staff and a taped conversation fed opposition claims the move was meant to shield the former leader from prosecution.

Tens of thousands of protesters on Wednesday took to the streets of the capital Brasilia and Sao Paulo, the country’s financial hub, demanding Rousseff’s resignation.

Critics said Lula’s appointment as chief of staff could help him avoid possible detention in an expanding corruption investigation that has now touched the top of Brazil’s political leadership.

“Brazil cannot continue with them anymore,” opposition politician, Rubens Bueno, said. “They are using their positions to stay in power at all cost.”

But Rousseff rejected the accusations, saying Lula was chosen for his experience and strong record of championing sound economic policies.

“He is going to help; we are going to look at returning to growth, fiscal stability and controlling inflation,” Rousseff said.

Meanwhile, the federal judge overseeing the graft probe said in a court filing released on Wednesday that taped telephone conversations showed Lula and Rousseff considered trying to influence prosecutors and courts in favor of the former president.

He admitted, however, there was no evidence they actually carried this out. One recording, made public by the court, showed Rousseff offering to send Lula a copy of his appointment “in case it was necessary”.

The head of the government coalition in the lower house of Congress, Jose Guimaraes, confirmed Lula’s appointment on Twitter after a meeting of Rousseff, the former president and senior ministers on Wednesday morning.
The move offers Lula short-term protection from prosecutors who have charged him with money laundering and fraud.

Lula’s return to government may also spell a change of economic tack, as he has openly criticised austerity efforts and called for more public spending to end Brazil’s worst recession in decades.

Brazil’s currency slid nearly two percent on Wednesday and has lost almost seven percent this week as Dilma’s invitation to Lula raised expectations of a sharp policy swing.

Lula’s return to Brasilia on Tuesday was overshadowed by a barrage of fresh corruption accusations by Senator Delcidio do Amaral, a close Workers’ Party ally of the president until he was arrested last year.



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