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5th Brazilian cabinet member resigns amid corruption allegations

By the CNN Wire Staff
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Brazil's tourism minister resigned Wednesday
  • A newspaper accused him of misusing public funds
  • Despite scandals, president remains popular

(CNN) -- Brazil's tourism minister has resigned amid corruption allegations, the latest in a string of cabinet defections that have occurred under a cloud of suspicion.

Since June, President Dilma Rousseff has lost five cabinet-level officials, none who face criminal charges, but four of whom left after allegations of corruption were levied against them.

But the turnover is likely to help Rousseff's popularity more than hurt it, said Paulo Sotero, director of the Brazil Institute at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.

The latest to go was Tourism Minister Pedro Novais, who on Wednesday issued a short statement announcing his resignation.

The Folha de Sao Paulo newspaper had recently published a report alleging that Novais used public funds for personal business and that his wife was given a driver paid for by the state, the state-run Agencia Brasil news agency reported.

In a recent sting operation, more than 30 employees from the tourism ministry were arrested in a corruption probe, but Novais remained at the helm of the ministry.

Corruption has long been a problem in Brazilian politics. It is not uncommon for ministers to be chosen to appease the various parties that make up the ruling coalition, Sotero said. And some, like Novais, had already overcome previous corruption allegations from when he was a congressman.

The difference this time, Sotero said, is that the president is reacting to corruption allegations that surface and pushing ministers out at the risk of destabilizing her coalition.

"We know that there is a problem of corruption in Brazil, and what is different now is that if you are corrupt and it is revealed, chances are you will not stay in your position," he said.

Polls show that Rousseff's popularity, despite the scandals of her ministers, has remained high, Sotero said.

Last month, former Agriculture Minister Wagner Rossi resigned amid allegations of influence peddling.

In July, former Transportation Minister Alfredo Nascimento left after accusations of bribery appeared in the media.

And after a newspaper reported that former Chief of Staff Antonio Palocci had increased his personal wealth 20-fold in four years, he resigned from his post in June.

Only former Defense Minister Nelson Jobim, who resigned in August, was spared from allegations of wrongdoing. He resigned after disparaging remarks he made toward other top officials went public.

CNN's Mariano Castillo contributed to this report.