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Scandal Continues as Clinton Arrives

Jaylan Boyle, Senior Contributing Reporter

RIO DE JANEIRO – The ongoing corruption scandal that has dogged the Conservative Democrat Party (DEM) has claimed another victim, with the resignation of acting governor of Brasilia Paulo Octavio. As the latest member of the DEM to fall on his sword, Mr. Octavio essentially leaves Brasilia without a governor just two days before the arrival of US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to the city as part of her whirlwind tour of South America.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is set to arrive in Brasilia on March 3, photo by US Department of State.

The latest scandal seems to be making near-weekly headlines, as more officials are being implicated in the financial wrongdoings. Last month the previous governor of Brasilia Jose Roberto Arruda was incarcerated after being somewhat ambiguously found guilty of interference with an official investigation. So far the main players identified in the scandal, which centers around alleged kickbacks received in return for construction concessions, are Arruda, Octavio and several DEM aides. Paulo Octavio owns one of the largest construction firms in Brasilia.

The wider implications of the scandal are far-reaching, not least in terms of the presidential election race. The DEM is the closest ally of the centre-left PSDB, whose leader, Sao Paulo state governor Jose Serra, holds a comfortable polling lead over his nearest challenger Dilma Rousseff. Serra has been expected to choose a DEM running mate in the lead-up to the election, however this course of action now looks to have been seriously undermined.

In the midst of this storm comes the arrival of American secretary of state Hillary Clinton in Brasilia this week. On top of her agenda will be Iran, and the US-led effort to pressure Tehran will no doubt disappoint many South American leaders hoping to table other issues. The US push for sanctions against Iran may meet with a rather cold reception here, Foreign Minister Celso Amorim having openly spoken against such a course of action in the press.

Mrs. Clinton’s party left nothing to guesswork regarding the US position on the issue, however, with assistant secretary Artura Valenzuela saying; “While we’re cognizant of the fact that the Brazilian government has… been approaching the Iranians, it’s very much on our agenda to try to insist with the Brazilians that in their engagement with Iran, we would like them to encourage the Iranians, of course, to meet their international obligations.”

José Roberto Arruda (left), and Paulo Octávio (right), photo by Fabio Pozzebom/ABr.

It is likely she will meet with Dilma Rousseff, as of last week the official Worker’s Party presidential nominee, who, should she successfully become Brazil’s first female President later this year, will doubtless continue down the trail blazed by Lula at least domestically, if not necessarily abroad. Frequently described as possessing a legendary temper, and known for her impressive work ethic, many have questioned whether she has the charisma to match her boss, but all eyes will be on the coming together of two women on course for powerful roles in the futures of their respective countries.

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