A Brazilian minister accused his own party of trying to destroy him and said he might not have enough support to continue in his job, raising the odds of yet another high-level departure from President Dilma Rousseff's beleaguered government.
Cities Minister Mario Negromonte denied a media report over the weekend that he had offered money to legislators in return for their support. He said the allegations had come from members of his own small Progressive Party who are upset with him over recent budget cuts, which he said were Rousseff's doing.
Referring to the dispute within his party, Negromonte told O Globo newspaper: In a family fight, brothers kill brothers, and everybody dies. That's why I said this is going to lead to blood. These people don't know what they're getting into.
The comments opened up a new chapter in the wave of corruption allegations and political infighting that has put the economic agenda of the Rousseff administration in doubt and forced four of her ministers to quit since June.
Negromonte said he still supported Rousseff, but recognized he might not have enough backing from his party, the fourth-largest in the government coalition, to continue in his job.
I'm a victim of friendly fire. To put an end to it, just a revolver wouldn't be enough. I'd have to get a machine gun and go out shooting, he said.
The crisis has its roots in Rousseff's decision to cut 30 billion dollars from the budget earlier this year, a move that was designed to keep inflation under control. The austerity measures enraged many members of Congress, who saw their discretionary funds cut and have reacted by lashing out at Rousseff and each other through the media.
The fight has escalated in recent days. Over the weekend, five additional ministers including Negromonte were accused of graft or unethical conduct in media reports based largely on anonymous sources.
Rousseff told allies on Tuesday that she did not intend to force out any more ministers, in an attempt to defuse the crisis, Folha de S. Paulo newspaper reported. Yet Negromonte may end up resigning anyway due to the lack of support from his own party, an official told reporters.
Negromonte threatened retaliation against dissident legislators within the PP.
Imagine if the histories of some of these congressmen leaked out. Or better yet, their police record, he said, according to O Globo.
He attributed the mutiny to 3.8 billion Reais (2.3 billion dollars) in overdue discretionary funds he said were owed to members of Congress, which he said he had been unable to convince Rousseff to release.
”There's difficulty in attending to the (lower house) deputies' needs, he told O Globo.
There's nothing happening. In (Rousseff's) government, you've got to sweat to get your money. You've got to be a marathoner. That's because (Rousseff) is very detail-oriented. And that creates dissatisfaction in our bloc”.
The stress caused by the budget cuts this year raises the question of whether Brazil's politicians will be able to handle further austerity in coming months. Finance Minister Guido Mantega said this week that additional spending restraint was possible in order to help interest rates come down.
Rousseff's reported vow to not pursue further firings could calm the revolt, though her popularity could suffer if the graft allegations continue and she is seen by the Brazilian public to be protecting corrupt or unethical officials.
Her own Workers Party is also furious with the President believing she was behind the campaign to expose the previous “corrupt” administrations of ex President Lula da Silva.