Brazil’s ruling Workers’ Party (PT) is focusing its monthly national executive meeting on its response to the arrest of one of its founders, Jose Dirceu, which his lawyer says is political.
The PT, the party of incumbent President Dilma Rousseff and former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, is meeting Tuesday at its party headquarters in Brasilia.
Brazilian authorities detained Dirceu, Lula’s former cabinet chief, on Monday. Immediately following the arrest, Dirceu’s lawyer Roberto Podval issued a statement calling it “political.”
The arrest is part of a corruption investigation involving state-run oil company Petrobras, which began under Lula. The scandal has not tainted Lula’s popularity, however. He is still one of Brazil's favourite politicians and is being touted as the PT's presidential candidate for 2018.
“You can hate him, say what you want about him, but there was no basis for the arrest. It seems to me exaggerated, misleading, unfair," said Padval of Dirceu.
On Tuesday, the regional PT president for Ceara state, Francisco de Assis Diniz, described Dirceu’s arrest as a smokescreen tactic, saying it is “an attempt to ruin the PT party.”
Diniz also called on the national party leaders to design a coordinated political response during the PT’s national executive committee meeting.
The arrest occurs as the opposition Brazilian Social Democracy Party (PSDB) prepares to hold anti-government rallies later this month.
Leading up to the planned protest, the PSDB has launched a smear campaign by using a series of thirty-second advertisements on evening TV to portray the governing PT as a corrupt bureaucratic party.