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Brazil ex-president Silva takes Cabinet post

| Wednesday, March 16, 2016, 6:18 p.m.
Former Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva waving to supporters from a window of the Workers Party state headquarters in Sao Paulo, Brazil, on March 4, 2016. Lula da Silva took  the chief of staff post on March 16, 2016.
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Former Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva waving to supporters from a window of the Workers Party state headquarters in Sao Paulo, Brazil, on March 4, 2016. Lula da Silva took the chief of staff post on March 16, 2016.

RIO DE JANEIRO — Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff on Wednesday appointed her predecessor and mentor, former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, as her chief of staff in a move supporters say will help her fight impeachment proceedings and critics blast as a scheme to shield the former leader from possible detention in corruption probes.

Rousseff hailed the appointment, which capped days of intense speculation and hours long meetings between the two leaders, saying she was “very happy with his arrival.”

“His joining my government strengthens my government,” she said at a news conference in the capital, Brasilia, adding, “Many people don't want it to be strengthened.

“But he is coming and he's coming to help.”

Rumors of Silva's appointment to a Cabinet post surfaced after the former leader was taken to a police station this month to answer questions connected to a sprawling investigation into corruption at the state-run oil company Petrobras. Wednesday's appointment will make it harder for prosecutors to investigate Silva because only Brazil's Supreme Court can authorize the investigation, imprisonment and trial of Cabinet members and legislators.

Rousseff served as chief of staff under Silva from 2005-2010. That powerful role projected her into the spotlight and led Silva to anoint her as his successor.

A dexterous political operator, Silva is seen as Rousseff's best hope for shoring up support for the government and its agenda by sealing alliances with key centrist and right-wing parties in Congress and securing the support of social movements. He's also regarded as crucial to blocking impeachment proceedings against Rousseff over allegations of fiscal mismanagement.

Rousseff vehemently denied that Silva had accepted the post to delay investigations against him, stressing that Cabinet ministers' special judicial standing does not grant them immunity.

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