Four Months Before Olympics, Brazil’s Minister of Tourism Resigns

Henrique Alves, Brazil’s Minister of Tourism, has resigned in what is being interpreted as the first of a long exodus of allies of leftist President Dilma Rousseff that may facilitate her impeachment by the legislature. It is not yet clear who Rousseff will appoint to replace Alves and run tourism operations during the 2016 Summer Olympics.

Alves is a member of the Brazilian Democratic Movement Party (PMDB), which opted to form a coalition government with Rousseff’s Workers’ Party (PT) upon her rise to power. He is the first member of his party to break with the Rousseff government; Vice President Michel Temer is the highest-ranking member of the party in the country. The PMDB is the largest minority party in Brazil and its split from the Workers’ Party would make impeachment of Rousseff much easier, an impeachment which would result in their president, Michel Temer, becoming head of state.

Alves noted only that he was stepping down from his post because “dialogue… has been exhausted” between the two parties. He signaled that the PMDB “is standing before the greatest challenge of choosing its path.” The party, Reuters reports, appears prepared to defect before its official vote Tuesday. “Party officials calculate that 70 to 80 percent of the 119 voting members of the PMDB directorate will vote to end the party’s alliance with Rousseff and the ruling Workers’ Party,” the outlet notes. “One told Reuters that 75 had already pledged to do so.”

O Globo, one of Brazil’s largest newspapers, reports that its sources too expect the party to break with Rousseff. It claims to have evidence that Temer met with former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and told him the party was ready to break. Temer issued a public statement stating he “does not support any illegitimate action” but has otherwise remained quiet.

Reuters predicts a domino effect in which smaller leftist political parties break away from the PT as well, creating a growing number of legislators open to voting for Rousseff’s impeachment. The vote is expected in April.

Rousseff is facing accusations of large-scale fiscal mismanagement. She has also found herself embroiled in the multi-billion-dollar Petrobras scandal, as her predecessor, da Silva, has been accused of taking federal funds from state oil corporation Petrobras for personal use. Rousseff appointed da Silva her chief of staff earlier this month, a move that grants him executive immunity from the federal court system and freezes the case against him. The appointment triggered protests by thousands of Brazilians and a temporary block from Brazil’s courts.

A week before, after da Silva was first interrogated by authorities, 3.4 million Brazilians took to the streets in 40 different cities calling for Rousseff’s impeachment and ouster. Rousseff has called the protests and impeachment suggestions a “coup” and vowed “never” to resign from her post.

What this means for preparations regarding the Summer Olympics, set to begin in August, remains unclear. Last week, the Associated Press ran an extensive report in which Brazilians politicians and observers noted the Olympics were being treated as an afterthought by the government as it struggled to remain in power. “I have never experienced such political turmoil in my whole life,” Mario Andrada, a member of the Olympics organizing committed, told AP. “If this was five years ago, we could have even lost the games.”

“I assure you the Olympic Games are the last thing on everybody’s mind right now,” Sergio Praca, a political scientist at the respected Getulio Vargas foundation, told AP.

Reuters reports today that the first casualty of the ongoing scandals – which all revolve around fiscal misconduct by politicians using state funds – may be the Olympic Deodoro complex, scheduled to be the home of Olympic Rugby Sevens, BMX biking, and kayaking. The outlet claims a federal court has ordered funding for the complex frozen following allegations of embezzlement related to the venue. Officials have yet to confirm the report, which, if true, would mean up to $35 million in Olympic assets would not reach the organizing committee.


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