Sex hotel scandal is first for Brazil’s next gov’t

SAO PAULO, (Reuters) – The nominee to be Brazil’s  next tourism minister used more than $1,000 in state funds to  pay for a party at a hotel commonly used for sexual encounters,  a newspaper reported yesterday.

Although the allegations involve a secondary figure in  President-elect Dilma Rousseff’s incoming government,  Brazilians have been sensitive to even the smallest charges of  corruption since a pay-for-votes scandal in 2005 nearly brought  down President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.

The tourism ministry will also play an increased role in  Rousseff’s government, which takes office on Jan. 1, due to the  2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics to be held in Brazil.    In a front-page story, Estado de S.Paulo newspaper said  that incoming minister Pedro Novais, 80, held the party at the  Hotel Pousada Caribe in June while he was still a lower-house  deputy in the national Congress.

Novais then billed Congress for the 2,156 reais ($1,268)  charge, Estado reported.

Hotels that charge per couple, by the hour — known simply  as “motels” — are common in Brazil and used by people for sex.  Estado published a picture of a pink-walled room that it said  Novais rented, which included a circular bed, pool and sauna. Novais issued a statement on Wednesday calling the report a  “lie” and said that he had “never” visited the hotel.

He said his office had “improperly” submitted the receipt  to Congress and that the “error … is being quickly  corrected.” The statement did not provide further details.

Earlier, Estado published a separate statement from Novais  saying that he used the money to house advisers and political  allies in the hotel.

Novais is a member of the PMDB party, the largest member of  Rousseff’s 10-party coalition and a critical bloc of support  for her planned economic reforms in Congress. The party’s  reputation for corruption has posed risks for Rousseff as she  tries to meet its demands for key ministerial appointments.

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