RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff on Friday denounced as an "act of electoral terrorism" a newsmagazine report suggesting she and her predecessor were aware of a corruption scheme within state-run oil giant Petrobras.
The report published in the Veja newsweekly comes just ahead of Sunday's presidential elections, capping an acrimonious and bruising campaign in which Rousseff and her center-right rival Aecio Neves traded allegations of corruption and incompetence as well as personal barbs.
In a campaign video and a series of tweets released a few hours after the magazine hit newsstands, Rousseff slammed the story and threatened to take legal action.
"Today the magazine exceeded the limits of decency and the lack of ethics," Rousseff said. "The magazine has committed this barbarity, this infamy ... without presenting the most minimal proof. It's absurd. It's a crime."
She added that she "cannot remain quiet in the face of this act of electoral terrorism by Veja and its hidden partners."
Her ad suggested the report was part of a systematic, years-long campaign by the right-leaning newsweekly to discredit her Workers' Party, which has governed Brazil for the past 12 years.
Rousseff said it was suspicious that the magazine's publication was pushed forward to Friday. It normally hits newsstands on Saturdays.
She also suggested the report represented a last-ditch effort to derail her campaign as polls show her taking a six-percentage-point lead over Neves.
Speaking at a news conference Friday in Rio de Janeiro, Neves called the allegations "something extremely serious that needs to be confirmed and reported."
If elected, "I can guarantee that if elected President these investigations will go into even more depth," he said. "Brazil deserves an answer from those that today govern Brazil."
Veja's allegations center around testimony by Alberto Youssef, a black-market money dealer who has testified that he helped launder kickbacks from some Petrobras contracts as part of a political corruption scheme at the struggling oil giant.
The magazine cites Youssef as having testified to police investigators that the executive branch "knew about everything." When asked who in the executive branch was aware of the scheme, Youssef allegedly replied that both Rousseff and her predecessor, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, knew.
The report underscored that Youssef "did not present any proof of what he said — and nor was he asked."
In her response, Rousseff hammered on the lack of evidence.
"Without presenting any concrete proof and once more basing themselves on supposed testimony from people from the underworld of crime, the magazine has tried to directly involve me and President Lula in happenings at Petrobras which are under investigation by the judicial system," she said.
Known for its investigative reports, Veja helped unveil a political scandal early in Rousseff's administration that forced her to push out several ministers.
In a brief text accompanying the new report, the magazine's editors said "Veja does not publish reports with the intention of diminishing or augmenting this or that candidate's chances for victory."
AP Television journalist Renata Brito in Rio contributed to this report.