Brazil labour minister latest to feel scandal heat

RIO DE JANEIRO, (Reuters) – Brazil’s labour minister  came under pressure to quit today after media allegations  of corruption put him at risk of becoming the seventh member of  President Dilma Rousseff’s Cabinet to fall this year.
Carlos Lupi became the latest minister in the firing line  on Saturday when weekly magazine Veja, citing unidentified  lawmakers and officials, reported that advisers to the minister  had demanded kickbacks on government contracts with  nongovernmental groups.
Lupi immediately fired one of the advisers and denied any  personal wrongdoing, but he faced further allegations against  his ministry in newspapers on Monday and a senator in his own  party said the accusations were “grave.”
O Globo reported that the national auditing court had  warned in October of a “critical situation” at the Labor  Ministry with more than 500 unaudited accounts with NGOs that  had received public money. On Sunday, the same newspaper  reported that federal police in the state of Sergipe were  investigating suspected fraud worth 11 million reais ($6.3  million) involving contracts between non-profit groups and the  ministry.
Relations between NGOs — non-profit groups that perform a  range of activities such as worker training — have been at the  center of at least two of the corruption scandals that have  unseated five ministers this year. A sixth minister quit after  making disparaging remarks about his colleagues.
The resignations have yet to harm Rousseff, who has  benefited from the perception she is supporting the purge, but  analysts say she may start to lose public support if the  government appears unable to stanch the resignations.
Lupi denied the allegations in an interview with O Globo  published today and said he would “die rather than throw in  the towel.” He said he had asked the justice minister to open a  federal police inquiry into the allegations in Veja.
“No one can have their honor thrown in the garbage by an  anonymous denunciation. … I am not involved in any  wrongdoing,” he was quoted as saying.
Several of this year’s scandals have followed a similar  pattern — initial denials by ministers followed by a steady  drip of fresh allegations in the media and the eventual  withdrawal of support by Rousseff.
The last one to quit, Sports Minister Orlando Silva,  vehemently denied allegations he received kickbacks from public  contracts but ended up resigning in October two weeks after the  first allegations were reported.
Lupi, who was appointed by Rousseff’s popular predecessor,  Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, is a member of the center-left PDT  party that is part of Rousseff’s fractious 16-party coalition.
The party planned to hold a meeting on Tuesday to hear  Lupi’s explanations and was considering asking the federal  public prosecutor to open an investigation, a spokesman for PDT  Senator Pedro Taques told Reuters.
“The facts are serious and society deserves an answer,”  Taques said on his Twitter page.

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