June 19, 2013
Rousseff: won't prejudge sports minister
Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff said on Thursday she would not prejudge her embattled sports minister and wanted a thorough investigation into corruption allegations against him.
Orlando Silva is accused of arranging up to 40 million reais ($23 million) in kickbacks from government contracts to benefit himself and the Communist Party of Brazil, which is part of Rousseff's government.
The scandal threatens to derail Brazil's preparations for the 2014 football World Cup and the 2016 Olympics, which it hopes will showcase its emergence as an economic power.
"It's important to assume people's innocence. I will look at this with immense calm and take a position to preserve not only the government but also the interests of the country," Rousseff told reporters in Angola on the last leg of a trip to Africa.
"The government won't judge anybody prematurely," she told reporters when asked how she would handle the Silva case upon her return to Brazil.
The influential news magazine Veja reported over the weekend that Silva headed a scheme dating back to 2004 in which 20 percent kickbacks were charged on public contracts to benefit him and his Communist Party.
Silva has emphatically denied any wrongdoing, saying the source of the accusations is a disgruntled former contractor arrested last year during an investigation into the Communist Party's alleged illegal fund-raising scheme.
The contractor said Silva received cash in the ministry's garage. He was questioned by police on Wednesday and said he would reveal an audiotape proving his accusations in coming days.
Rousseff appeared to reject media reports saying the government was planning to sideline the Communist Party and give control of the Sports Ministry to another allied party.
"My government respects the Communist Party of Brazil, (and) thinks it has leaders absolutely important to the country," she said.
Communist party leaders had said coalition allies were trying to take control of the Sports Ministry as it gained clout ahead of the two mega sports events.
Rousseff has already lost five cabinet members this year, four of them over allegations of wrongdoing.