Brazil’s interim gov’t loses 3rd Cabinet member in 1 month


BRASILIA, Brazil (AP) — Brazil’s tourism minister, a close ally of acting President Michel Temer, resigned on Thursday after a brief tenure dogged by allegations of corruption.

Henrique Eduardo Alves is the third minister to step down since Temer assumed the presidency just over a month ago after President Dilma Rousseff was impeached and suspended. Temer had been vice president.

Temer has come under fire for appointing politicians facing corruption investigations to ministerial posts.

Alves is under investigation in the sprawling corruption probe at state-run oil giant Petrobras that has already ensnared some of Brazil’s richest businessmen and powerful politicians from across the political spectrum.

Temer’s office didn’t disclose the reason behind Alves’ resignation, which comes a day after the release of damning plea bargain testimony by former oil company executive Sergio Machado. Alves, who also served as tourism minister under Rousseff, is one of more than 20 politicians alleged to have received bribes from Transpetro, a Petrobras subsidiary.

In the plea bargain testimony, Machado alleged more than $400,000 in bribes were funneled to Alves’ campaign treasury. Alves has denied any wrongdoing in the case.

In his letter of resignation, Alves explained his resignation by saying, “I don’t want to create awkwardness or any kind of difficulty for the government.”

Machado’s allegations marked the most direct link yet between Temer and the massive corruption probe. The interim president was accused of asking the former Transpetro executive to channel $400,000 to his party’s mayoral candidate in the 2012 municipal elections in Sao Paulo as part of a kickback scheme.

Temer vehemently denied any wrongdoing, dismissing the accusations as “irresponsible, ludicrous” in remarks to the media on Thursday.

The name of another of Temer’s ministers, Environment Minister Sarney Filho, also surfaced in Machado’s plea bargain, though he has not made any move to step down.

The first ministerial resignation came just a little over a week after Temer assumed the presidency. Planning Minister Romero Juca stepped down after leaked audio recordings suggested he was plotting to obstruct the Petrobras corruption probe. A week later, Temer’s anti-corruption czar Fabiano Silveira left the head of the Transparency Ministry after he was heard in the leaked audios instructing a politician investigated in the Petrobras case.

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