By William Jones, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Brazil’s federal government has organized a strategy to shield President Dilma Rousseff from her involvement in the 2006 approval of the allegedly fraudulent purchase of half of an American refinery by state-controlled Petrobras when she headed the oil giant.
The Palácio do Planalto – the official seat of the Brazilian presidency – said that President Dilma Rousseff authorized the purchase, as well as all the other members of the Petrobras council of which she was a part. The Planalto argued that the decision was made after review of the executive summary of a flawed report that was favorable to the purchase.
President Rouseff, who faces an election later this year, is under fire for the February 2006 purchase, which took place when Rousseff served as Chief of Staff of former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva and was chair of Petrobras’ board of directors. Both Brazil’s Court of Auditors (TCU) and Federal Public Ministry are looking into alleged irregularities in the acquisition of the Pasadena, Texas-based refinery.
Those two organs maintain that Brazil paid a combined sum that was entirely above market value for the refinery. In 2006, Petrobras paid US$360 million for a fifty percent stake in the refinery, and paid US$820 million for the remaining stake in 2012.
Rousseff’s involvement in the purchase has already been seized by the opposition. “It’s an unforgivable mistake for the president to make a decision that cost taxpayers more than US$1 billion,” said Antonio Imbassahy, leader of the opposition Brazilian Social Democracy (PSDB) party.
The Planalto said the decision to acquire the refinery had been “unanimous” and had been part of a 2004 Petrobras strategy devised to expand the company into the Gulf of Mexico and Africa, thus justifying investments in the United States.
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