Thursday, 27 October 2011

Brazilian Sports Minister quits in corruption probe

Becoming the fifth cabinet minister to resign in recent months, Brazil's Sports Minister Orlando Silva has quit his post amid a row over corruption which is threatening to derail President Dilma Rousseff.

Silva resigned on 26th October after persistent accusations that he helped to siphon money off a charitable fund to promote sport for deprived children, using the embezzled money for himself and to prop up the Communist Party of Brazil, part of the ruling coalition. He has been accused of stealing up to US$23 million.

He has strongly denied the allegations and has called his principal accuser, a police officer, a delinquent. In resigning, Silva said that “I decided to leave the government so that I can defend my honour”. Although no hard evidence was laid against him, analysts say that the pressure mounting on him – including a recently opened inquiry by the Supreme Court - made it inevitable that he would stand down.

Silva was the only Communist in Rousseff's Cabinet. It is widely expected that she will allow the Communist Party to nominate his successor, despite the party's apparent involvement in many of the recent graft scandals. Rousseff's willingness to let the Communists retain control of the ministry suggests that she is not keen to engage in a bruising political fight and risk her coalition unravelling.

To date she has been unaffected by the scandals, many of which stem from appointments made under her predecessor Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, but analysts say there are limits to the amount of resignations that can occur before she starts to look weak.

The role of Sports Minister will be critical in the upcoming years, as the country prepares to host the 2014 World Cup. The amount of money and contracts involved makes it a potentially lucrative post for a corrupt official, and Rousseff is likely to insist on a candidate with impeccable integrity.

Sources: BBC, Reuters, AFP

For more news and expert analysis about Brazil, please see Brazil Focus.

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