SÃO PAULO – Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff has been accused by rival presidential hopefuls of using a May Day speech broadcast on national television and radio for her own gains ahead of this year’s elections.
Rival presidential pre-candidates senator Aécio Neves, of the main opposition Brazilian Social Democracy Party (PSDB), and former governor Eduardo Campos of the Brazilian Socialist Party (PSB), launched a scathing attack on Thursday over the president’s national address, which they criticised as being directed towards general elections set for 5 October.
On the eve of Brazil’s International Workers’ Day national holiday, President Rousseff gave a national address in which she announced that she had signed decrees adjusting income tax by 4.5%, meaning workers with inflation-pegged salaries will pay less.
She also announced that the family stipend, the Bolsa Família, would be increased by 10%, meaning more cash for the 36 million Brazilians who benefit from the programme.
Neves called the speech “pathetic” and accused the president of “political proselytism”. Campos said the speech was more “election-orientated” than a presidential address should be.
The president also attempted to address criticism related to the purchase by state-owned oil giant Petrobras of a Pasadena oil refinery in Texas in 2006, saying the company, Brazil’s biggest, would never be associated with acts of corruption.
Rousseff, who led Petrobras’ board at the time, has fought calls for a congressional inquiry into accusations the government overpaid heavily for the refinery.
Neves said Rousseff had tried to apportion blame back onto the opposition, while Campos said Petrobras needed “rescuing” and “protecting from political interference,” GloboNews reported.
The two rival election pre-candidates spoke at an event to mark International Workers’ Day organised by the Força Sindical, one of Brazil’s most widely-recognised trade union organisations.
Rousseff had been invited to the event, but chose not to appear alongside the presidential rivals, instead sending representatives, including Gilberto Carvalho, Secretary General of the Presidency, who accused the PSDB of wanting to “privatise” Petrobras.
“Petrobras, which they are criticising and talking down, and which [former President Fernando Henrique Cardoso] attempted to privatise, is today a great company of the country which they [the PSDB] want to try to privatise if they come to power, which they will not,” Carvalho was quoted by the G1 news portal as saying.
Elections in mind
Official party presidential candidates are to be announced in June, but Rousseff, Neves and Campos have already stated their intention to run. Brazilians go to the polls on 5 October for a first round of general elections, which will elect the president, senators, deputies, governors and state legislatures.
The news comes as pre-election polls have shown the decline in the president’s popularity is continuing.
The latest MDA/CNT poll of voting intentions, released by Tuesday, gave President Rousseff some 37% of the vote. The same pollster registered 43.7% of voter intentions for Rousseff in February.
The new poll gave both Neves and Campos a greater share of the vote: Neves with 21.6%, up from 17% in February, and Campos with 11.8%, up from 9.9%.
Rousseff has faced a backbench rebellion in recent days with allied parties calling for a former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, who brought Rousseff to power after himself serving a maximum of two terms in office, to return and run for president.
Rousseff says attempts to drive a wedge between the two will not work and that she will run for president “with or without” the support of certain parties.