Fri, Dec 24, 2010 - Page 7 News List

Hotel sex scandal is first for Brazil’s next government

WASN’T ME:The incoming octogenarian tourism minister said a newspaper’s claim that he held a party at a motel which charges per couple, per hour, was a lie

REUTERS, SAO PAULO, BRAZIL

The nominee to be Brazil’s next tourism minister used more than US$1,000 in state funds to pay for a party at a hotel commonly used for sexual encounters, a newspaper reported on Wednesday.

Although the allegations involve a secondary figure in Brazilian president-elect Dilma Rousseff’s incoming government, Brazilians have been sensitive to even the smallest charges of corruption since a pay-for-votes scandal in 2005 nearly brought down Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.

The tourism ministry will also play an increased role in Rousseff’s government, which takes office on Jan. 1, due to the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics to be held in Brazil.

PARTY PEOPLE

In a front-page story, Estado de S.Paulo newspaper said that incoming minister Pedro Novais, 80, held the party at the Hotel Pousada Caribe in June while he was still a lower-house deputy in the national Congress.

Novais then billed Congress for the 2,156 reais (US$1,268) charge, Estado reported.

Hotels that charge per couple, by the hour — known simply as “motels” — are common in Brazil and used by people for sex. Estado published a picture of a pink-walled room that it said Novais rented, which included a circular bed, pool and sauna.

Novais issued a statement on Wednesday calling the report a “lie” and said that he had “never” visited the hotel.

ACCOUNTING ERROR

He said his office had “improperly” submitted the receipt to Congress and that the “error ... is being quickly corrected.”

The statement did not provide further details.

Earlier, Estado published a separate statement from Novais saying that he used the money to house advisers and political allies in the hotel.

Novais is a member of the PMDB party, the largest member of Rousseff’s 10-party coalition and a critical bloc of support for her planned economic reforms in Congress.

The party’s reputation for corruption has posed risks for Rousseff as she tries to meet its demands for key ministerial appointments.

A spokesman for Rousseff’s office declined to comment.

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