Dilma Rousseff
Dilma Rousseff

Sao Paulo:  Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff and opposition leader Aecio Neves, who will face off in the Oct 26 runoff election, have harshly attacked each other in a new televised debate over corruption scandals in their respective parties.

Two days after corruption was one of the main issues discussed in the first of the four televised campaign debates, denunciations by both candidates of diversion of public funds kicked off the debate organised by SBT television Thursday.

Neves, the standardbearer of the opposition Brazilian Social Democratic Party (PSDB), fired the first salvo by questioning Rousseff, with the Workers Party (PT) about the new scandals plaguing state-run oil company  Petrobras.

He said that the scope and seriousness of the complaints against Petrobras suggest that the president was “tolerant” of the irregularities or “was incompetent in overseeing the country’s largest company”.

Rousseff answered that the scandals had arisen precisely because she had ordered the police to investigate the company and “punish” those responsible for  illegal activities, and she fired back claiming that during the presidency of the PSDB’s Fernando Henrique Cardoso (1995-2002) the police were commanded by PSDB members and refused to investigate corruption complaints.

Rousseff also cited the case of relatives of Neves who supposedly worked for the state of Minas Gerais when he was governor there, and she accused her rival of nepotism.

Neves, in turn confirmed that his sister had worked as a volunteer for the  regional government and cited the case of Rousseff’s brother, who allegedly was  hired by one of the president’s allies and received a salary without doing any  work.

“My sister works hard and receives nothing. Your brother receives (pay) and doesn’t work,” Neves declared.

Analysts say that the debates will be decisive elements in a completely  unpredictable campaign where the two candidates are neck and neck in the voter  surveys, although Neves holds a very slight lead at present.

The next debate will take place Sunday and is being organised by Record  television, and the last one — put together by the Globo channel, which has the  country’s largest viewership — will be held Oct 24, two days before the balloting.

In the first electoral round, Rousseff received 41.59 percent of the votes, while Neves garnered 33.55 percent.

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