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Brazil tourism minister Henrique Alves resigns

Henrique Alves denies claims but quits as tourism minister after ex-Petrobas executive says he got $400,000 in bribes.

Brazil's tourism minister has resigned, less than two months before the country hosts the Olympics.

With the resignation of Henrique Alves on Thursday, the government of interim President Michel Temer has lost its third minister in a month to a probe of state oil company Petrobras.

The resignation followed an investigation into alleged bribery on the part of Transpetro, a Petrobras subsidiary.

A day earlier, Sergio Machado, previously a Petrobras executive and a former senator from Temer’s party, alleged in a plea bargain testimony that Alves received more than $400,000 in bribes.

Denying the accusation, Alves announced on Twitter that the contributions were made to his campaigns through official channels and were declared to election authorities.

In his letter of resignation, Alves said:, "I don't want to create awkwardness or any kind of difficulty for the government."

Alves' resignation, so close to the Rio de Janeiro Olympics, adds to the upheaval at the tourism ministry due to the constant change of ministers and secretaries that was caused by Brazil's political crisis.

Machado's testimony also linked Temer to campaign funds sought from corruption schemes at Petrobas.

Temer said it was "irresponsible, ridiculous, mendacious and criminal" to suggest, as Machado did, that he had sought campaign funds for his party from the corruption scheme, the first direct link implicating Temer in the scandal.

"We will not tolerate affirmations of that nature," Temer said in a hastily scheduled public address.

"A foolish suggestion like that can confound the government's work. But I want to affirm that nothing will hinder our desire, mission and aim of doing what the president must do right now."

A fiscal reform that proposed a 20-year constitutional cap on public spending was revealed on the same day, but the plea bargain testimony with its bribery allegations was the main headline in Thursday’s newspapers.

The accusations provide more fodder for suspended President Dilma Rousseff and her allies, who accuse Temer and his party of mounting the impeachment process against her in order to distract from their own roles in the corruption scandal.

Rousseff faces a trial in the Senate on unrelated charges of breaking budget rules.

If she is convicted in mid-August, as many analysts still expect, Rousseff will be permanently removed from office and Temer would serve out her mandate until the 2018 elections.


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