RIO DE JANEIRO (AFP) – Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff fought off challenger Aecio Neves’s accusations of corruption as the campaign for Sunday’s vote to choose the next leader of the world’s seventh-largest economy wrapped up.
After weeks of fighting tooth and nail in a race that was too close to call, the leftist incumbent has managed to carve out a six- to eight-point lead going into Saturday’s campaign-free period of reflection before voters cast their ballots.
But her center-right challenger sought to claw back his one-time lead at their final debate Friday night by attacking Rousseff on the corruption scandals that have dogged her Workers’ Party (PT) almost throughout its 12 years in power.
He opened the debate by asking her about an 11th-hour media report claiming she and her PT predecessor, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, “knew everything” about an alleged multi-billion-dollar kickback scheme at state oil giant Petrobras.
It was, he said, the culmination of “the most sordid campaign in history.”
Rousseff, 66, aggressively denied the report by conservative newsmagazine Veja, which sped up publication to come out the day of the debate.
“Veja has presented no proof,” she said, condemning the article as “slander and defamation” and repeating her vow to sue.