By Sarah de Sainte Croix, Senior Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – On Sunday, Brazil’s Labor Minister, Carlos Lupi, became the seventh minister to resign since President Rousseff took office in January. The ministry’s chief secretary, Paulo Roberto dos Santos Pinto, will take his place until a permanent replacement is chosen.
In a note to the press this weekend, Lupi explained, “Given the political and personal persecution I have been suffering for the past two months at the hands of the media, without the right to defense and without evidence; and taking into account the opinion of the Presidential Ethics Committee – which also summarily condemned me based on the same news, without giving me the right to defend myself – I have decided to resign from my post.”
He continued, “I am doing this so that the hatred for labor ideals, stirred up by the most reactionary and conservative forces in this country, does not contaminate other sectors of the government.”
Lupi is under investigation for accusations of diverting public funds and fiddling government contracts. His troubles began on November 5th, when Veja – the magazine that has brought about the downfall of a many of the Brazil’s now-ex ministers – reported that Lupi and his party, the PDT, were running a racket out of the Ministry of Labor.
The article accused Lupi and his aides of transforming “the organs of control into an instrument of extortion,” saying that, “According to reports by directors of NGOs, parliamentarians and civil servants, the scheme works as follows: First the ministry hires entities to give professional training courses, and then aides demand bribes of 5 percent to 15 percent to resolve disputes that they themselves created.”
Lupi responded by saying that anyone found guilty would “be punished in accordance with Brazilian law,” and denied all knowledge of the alleged wrong doing, claiming that the charges against him were invented by businessmen trying to get back at him for uncovering their unlawful treatment of employees.
He said he “doubted” Rousseff would sack him because of “the trust she has in me,” and that he would refuse to resign, saying that it would take “a bullet” to get him out.
But further accusations emerged on November 12th when Veja magazine published photos showing Lupi emerging from a plane chartered by the businessman Adair Meira – the man at the center of the network of NGOs caught up in the scandal at the Ministry.
Until that point Lupi had denied any relationship with Meira, saying, “I never traveled on his or anybody else’s personal plane.” But soon after the photos were published, his case was referred to the Presidential Ethics Committee who, on Wednesday last week, unanimously recommended that the Minister be dismissed from his post.
Furthermore, the Folha de São Paulo newspaper recently alleged that that Lupi had been claiming two government salaries illegally between 2000 and 2006 – one as an employee of the Congress in Brasilia and the other from the State Legislature of Rio de Janeiro, where he was reportedly living at the time.
In the face of all this, Lupi said in his parting note to the press, “I leave with a clear conscience about the work I have done, [and] about my personal honesty, and I am sure that the truth will out.”