Brazilian labour minister quits over scandal

Carlos Lupi, sixth cabinet member to resign since January, was accused of "gross mismanagement".

    President Dilma Rousseff has seen off six ministers since January, earning an anti-corruption reputation [REUTERS]

    Brazil's Labour Minister Carlos Lupi has resigned in the face of mounting corruption allegations, the latest in a series of scandal-driven departures from President Dilma Rousseff's cabinet.

    Lupi announced his resignation in a statement on the Labour Ministry's website on Sunday.

    "In the face of political and personal persecution in the media that I have been suffering for two months without the right of defence and without proof ... I've decided to irrevocably resign my position," the statement said.

    He had decided to resign after meeting with Rousseff, a Brazilian minister told Reuters on condition of anonymity.

    In his statement, Lupi cited a report of the president's ethics committee, which he said had "condemned" him based on media reports and without giving him a right to defend himself.

    String of resignations

    Lupi will be replaced by Paulo Roberto dos Santos Pinto, the ministry's executive secretary, starting on Monday, Rousseff said in a statement on the Presidency's website.

    Rousseff has lost six of 32 ministers since taking office in January and five of those due to scandals involving alleged corruption.

    The departures have weakened her relations with coalition parties in congress that she needs to pass an
    ambitious programme of social legislation and infrastructure spending.

    The president's note thanked Lupi for his cooperation and work in her government and said she "expects him to continue
    contributing to the country".

    Kickbacks and free planes

    Most of the departing ministers were holdovers from the two-term government of her Workers' Party predecessor and mentor Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.

    Pressure on Lupi, who had said "only a bullet" could remove him from office, reached a peak on Wednesday when the Public Ethics Committee of the Brazilian Presidency unanimously recommended he be fired for gross mismanagement.

    The committee's investigation, along with a probe in Congress, came after the news magazine Veja reported in
    November that Lupi aides allegedly demanded kickbacks from charities and other non-governmental organisations as a condition of receiving funding from the ministry.

    Lupi also allegedly favoured NGOs linked to his PDT Brazilian Workers' Party and received free air travel aboard an airplane owned by the head of an NGO financed by the ministry.

    After denying knowing the NGO chief, TV news agencies showed video of the two men together at public events along with the plane.

    The latest allegation is that Lupi received a salary as a federal congressional employee for six years while at the same
    time serving, and receiving a salary, as a representative in the state legislature of Rio de Janeiro, the Folha de S. Paulo
    newspaper reported on Sunday.

    Receiving two government salaries is illegal under Brazilian law aimed at preventing so-called "double-dipping."

    The resignations have given the president a reputation among many Brazilians as a corruption fighter and have not
    resulted in major damage to her popularity. Approval ratings reached nearly 60 per cent in some southern states as recently as September, a region that is not considered a stronghold.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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