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Brazil's Rousseff, Lula to boycott Olympic opening ceremony
[Rio de Janeiro] Brazil's suspended president Dilma Rousseff and her predecessor and left-wing ally Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva will boycott the opening ceremony at the Rio Olympics, officials said Tuesday.
Their absence at the August 5 ceremony highlights the political crisis in Brazil, with Rousseff facing possible removal from office in an impeachment trial shortly after the Games end. Mr Lula, who as president was instrumental in Rio's winning bid as Olympic host, faces serious corruption allegations.
"She will not go," said a source from Rousseff's office at the Alvorada Palace residency in the capital Brasilia.
"Lula will not go," echoed Jose Chrispiniano, a spokesman at the Lula Institute in Sao Paulo.
Rousseff, who was first elected in 2010, is on trial in the Senate on allegations of breaking government budget laws. A judgment vote is scheduled for late August and could see her removed from her post.
The leftist leader says the impeachment process is a coup in disguise mounted by her former vice-president, Michel Temer, who has been acting president ever since Rousseff's suspension in May. If she is removed permanently, Mr Temer would retain the presidency until 2018.
Mr Temer is expected to preside over the Games as Brazil's leader.
On Monday, Rousseff said in an interview with French radio RFI that she would refuse to attend the opening ceremony with anything less than presidential status.
"I do not intend to take a secondary role in the Games in Rio," she said.
Estadao newspaper recently reported that the invitation to Rousseff is similar to that sent out to several ex-presidents of Brazil, including her predecessor Lula, Fernando Henrique Cardoso, Fernando Collor de Mello and Jose Sarney.
Mr Lula, who founded the Workers' Party and eased Rousseff to power after serving two presidential terms himself, was a key player in Rio's successful 2009 bid to stage the Games, the first ever in South America.
While Rousseff faces ejection from office, Mr Lula is also struggling against serious corruption allegations related to the vast embezzlement conspiracy at state oil company Petrobras.
When Rio won the Games, it was seen as the icing on the cake of a Lula presidency lauded around the world for using a commodities-fueled economic boom to lift millions of people out of severe poverty.
Brazil, which hosted the football World Cup in 2014, was until recently seen as one of the leaders of the BRICS group of developing giants.
"The Olympic Games will give confidence to the Brazilian people," Mr Lula said on October 2, 2009, in a tearful victory speech after winning the Games.
The political crisis, accompanied by a severe recession and the shockwaves of the Petrobras corruption scandal have left Brazil in a dark mood with less than two weeks to go until the Games.
A recent Datafolha poll found that 50 per cent of Brazilians oppose hosting the Olympics, with 63 per cent predicting that the event will bring more bad than good.