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Brazil's Lula unveils new $878 bln investment plan

BRASILIA, March 29 (Reuters) - Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva launched a $878 billion infrastructure investment program on Monday that will be a major campaign banner for his chosen candidate in October elections.

Days before Lula’s chief of staff, Dilma Rousseff, must step down to be able to campaign for president, the government said spending on the program would be 1.59 trillion reais ($878 billion) in the coming years, with 959 billion reais earmarked for between 2011 and 2014.

Rousseff is expected to tout the massive investments to voters as evidence that Lula’s center-left government is rapidly improving the poor infrastructure and underfunded health system that dog Brazil despite strong economic growth in recent years.

The centrist opposition, whose presidential candidate is expected to be Sao Paulo state Governor Jose Serra, has criticized the program as propaganda, pointing to lengthy delays in projects in its first stage, which began in 2007.

($=1.81 reais)

Reporting by Fernando Exman; writing by Stuart Grudgings; Editing by Doina Chiacu