Embattled President Dilma Rousseff has been dealt another blow after a cabinent member resigns. A widening corruption scandal threatens to unravel the precarious coalition she heads.
Tourism Minister Henrique Eduardo Alves said on Monday he turned in his letter of resignation, becoming the first minister from the Brazilian Democratic Movement Party (PMDB) to leave Rousseff's government.
The PMDB is Brazil's largest political party and is expected to abandon its alliance with Rousseff's Workers' Party (PT) later on Tuesday.
The PMDB, a massive centrist party, has always been an unlikely partner for Rousseff's left-wing PT, which needs its votes, but has little in common with it ideologically.
This comes as the Brazilian Bar Association (OAB) filed a new request on Monday for Rousseff's impeachment for obstructing justice and granting international soccer body FIFA tax-exempt status during the 2014 World Cup.
But Rousseff's predecessor, ex-President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, says he believes Rousseff can survive mounting pressure in Congress for her impeachment. And he lashed out at her critics.
"An impeachment without legal basis is a coup," Da Silva told reporters on Monday. "These are excuses and fake arguments to shorten the term of the person who won the elections."
Critics of Rousseff say she named Da Silva as chief of staff to shield him from prosecution over his role in the Petrobras scandal.
Those suspicions gained support when a judge released a wire-tapped phone call suggesting that the appointment - which would have given Lula ministerial immunity - was indeed a maneuver to save him from arrest on pending money-laundering charges.
Government supporters have pledged to take to the streets if Rousseff is impeached, but some business leaders have said her departure would restore confidence in Brazil's troubled economy.
Rousseff is struggling to save her presidency in the midst of the worst economic recession in a generation and the widening graft investigation that started at state-run oil company Petrobras.
Her opponents are seeking to solidify the two-thirds majority needed in the lower house - 342 votes in all - to open an impeachment trial in the Senate.
If Rousseff is impeached, she would be suspended and the upper house, overseen by the president of the Supreme Court, would decide her fate, with a two-thirds majority - 54 of 81 - needed to force her from office.
jar/gsw (AFP, Reuters, AP)