By Patricia Maresch, Senior Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – In the aftermath of the scandal surrounding Dilma Rousseff’s controversial chief of staff, Antionio Palocci, the Brazilian president’s popularity is at an all-time high. According to polling agency Datafolha in São Paulo, 49 percent gave Rousseff a very positive approval rating, saying she was doing a ‘good’ to ‘excellent’ job.
The poll was executed in the second week of June, after Palocci’s resignation. Roussef’s approval rating rose from the 47 percent recorded in March.
President Rousseff is less than six months into her term and the Palocci scandal was a major setback for her. It all started mid-May when the newspaper Folha de São Paulo reported that Palocci’s personal wealth multiplied twenty times between 2006 and 2010.
The earnings came from his consulting firm. During the time he was also an acting congressman and the leader of Rousseff’s presidential campaign. Palocci refused to give details of the names of the companies that paid him on the basis of ‘confidentiality’ – merely stating he had done nothing wrong or illegal.
The public prosecutor started an investigation but has yet to find evidence to charge Palocci with a crime. However, the damage was already done and the allegations of corruption hovered around Palocci’s head. The opposition demanded for him to step down, meanwhile accusing Rousseff of being “a puppet being manipulated by her master, predecessor Lula da Silva.”
Dilma had consulted Lula about whether to dismiss Palocci, which Lula had reportedly advised against. After weeks of building public and media pressures, Palocci ultimately stepped down. In a speech before top ministers and aides, Rousseff said she regretted the departure of Palocci and promised to continue his policy of responsible budget spending.
“I would be lying if I said I wasn’t sad,” Rousseff said, “[But] we will never be paralyzed by political clashes. We know how to deal with them and govern at the same time.” Financial markets reacted calmly to Palocci’s resignation. According to economists, this just demonstrates, above all, the stability of the Brazilian economy and democracy.
Political analysts described Palocci as a voice for Brazil’s private sector, one of the most powerful figures in the Roussef administration, and well-liked by Wall Street.
It was not the first time he exited through the back door. Palocci was minister of Finance under Lula, and resigned because of his involvement in the Mensalão-scandal, which involved monthly payments to a number of Congressional deputies in order to vote for legislation favored by the ruling Workers’ Party (PT).
The polling firm Datafolha also asked what people thought of Rousseff’s handling the recent Palocci scandal. “Thirty-three percent responded they did not approve of the way that she addressed the crisis,” says Fernando Canzian, the director of Datafolha. “There was some perception that the president should have been somewhat more decisive.”
Canzian: “Resuming our poll, we can say that Rousseff remains popular, and comparing it with the first six months of Lula’s mandate, her popularity is seven percent higher. [Neither] the Palocci scandal, nor fears of higher inflation [make] the people of Brazil think more negatively about their government.”
Gleisi Hoffmann has replaced Palocci, a 45-year-old senator and former finance director for the Itaipu hydroelectric dam on the Brazilian-Paraguayan border.