By Ruth Faulkner, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Brazilian President Rousseff announced Tuesday, April 15th, that Henrique Eduardo Alves will be the new Minister of Tourism. The departure of the most recent minister, Vinicius Lages, was announced in a Planalto Palace press statement, thanking him for his dedication and loyalty.
Alves, born in Rio de Janeiro, was tapped to take over from the start of President Rousseff’s second term in January. Coming from a traditional family of politicians, Alves joined parliament for the first time when he was 22 years old.
The ministry was most recently rocked in 2011 following the arrest of 35 officials from the Ministry of Tourism, Federal Police investigators are reporting evidence of an embezzlement scheme worth upwards of R$15 million.
Suspicions were raised concerning contracts between the Ministry of Tourism and an NGO, or non-profit organization, the Brazilian Institute of Development for Sustainable Infrastructure (IBRASI) made before 2009.
Now several ministry appointments later and a FIFA World Cup completed, the new Minister Alves brings experience as Speaker of the House, as well as deputy governor of the state Rio Grande de Norte, a post he has held eleven times between 1971 and 2015.
The new minister’s name was mentioned in the Operação Lava Jato (Carwash Operation) scandal, but federal prosecutors considered that there was insufficient evidence for charging him of criminal activity. Alves denied involvement in the scheme.
Vice-President Michel Temer confirmed the appointment on Tuesday April 14th and Alves officially took control of the post at 3PM Wednesday, April 16th. Upon his confirmation, Alves declared a goal to “create an economic agenda for the Northeast and for Brazil.”
“I’ll start with great humility because my experience [calls for] it. I want to know the work of the current minister, Vinicius Lages, know the designs of the Ministry, the plans already programmed and gradually get in touch with the Ministry’s experience and knowledge of Brazil,” Henrique Alves said to Globo.
Tourism in Brazil is a growing sector and key to the economy of several regions of the country. The country had 5.17 million visitors in 2012, ranking in terms of the international tourist arrivals as the second main destination in South America, after Argentina.
The Ministry of Tourism will be a key player and under increased scrutiny over the next year as the IOC predicts that 480,000 tourists will descend on Rio de Janeiro for the 2016 Olympic Games, the first ever to be held in South America.