Brazilian legislator seeks impeachment of president's former top aide

A Brazilian legislator requested the impeachment Tuesday of Rep. Jose Dirceu, the former cabinet-level chief of staff accused of masterminding a scheme to bribe congressmen to support the government.

Rep. Julio Delgado told the Ethics Committee of the Chamber of Deputies that Dirceu broke decorum _ an impeachable offense _ in the bribes-for-votes scandal that has shook the government of President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.

"Your impeachment is necessary to restore the dignity and the credibility of this Chamber," Delgado said in a televised hearing.

Delgado _ a member of the Brazilian Socialist Party, which is usually aligned with Dirceu's Workers Party, or PT _ said a businessman paid the PT 9.62 million reals (US$4.3 million) between January and May 2004 for expenses, including payments to legislators.

The scandal, which broke in June, shocked Brazilians who supported Silva, a former union leader, and thought of the leftist PT as a bastion of ethics in politics. Dirceu stepped down from his cabinet post but retained his position in the Chamber of Deputies. Other government and party leaders were forced to step down and four legislators quit to avoid impeachment.

Dirceu has said there's no proof against him and promised to deliver documents on Thursday proving his innocence. A decision on his impeachment wasn't expected before Friday.

"I'm not corrupt," he said. "I don't want mercy _ I want justice."

Silva, who has not been personally linked to the scandal, was on a visit to Russia and said most accusations had not been proved.

"When this ends, we'll see how much is true and how much is lies," he told the government news service Agencia Brasil.

Silva's popularity declined after the scandal broke but has rebounded in recent polls. It's not clear whether he will run for a second term in 2006, AP reported. V.A.

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