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Mac Margolis

Rousseff's Gamble on Lula Isn't Likely to Pay Off

The Brazilian president's latest maneuver looks like an exercise in magical realism.


Photographer: Igo Estrela/Getty Images

It's getting hard to keep up with the rolling political crisis that's steadily engulfing Latin America's biggest nation. On Wednesday, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff named former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva as her new chief of staff. It was a bold move that seemed calculated not so much to help Brazil through troubled times as to prop up her own enfeebled presidency and throw a lifeline to her tarnished political mentor.

That plan lasted until nightfall. Just hours after it was confirmed that Lula had been selected as Rousseff's chief of staff, Brazilian media began airing snippets of wiretapped conversations which suggested that the two leaders had conspired to evade justice. (On the argument that Lula's position could also allow him to influence ongoing legal investigations, a federal judge ruled to block the nomination, although government lawyers quickly filed an appeal.) If those charges -- and many others clouding Rousseff's government -- hold up in court, her gamble to save her career could end up quickening calls for her ouster and help push Lula, a living Brazilian legend who redeemed the poor and brought the country international glory, into disgrace.