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The BBC's Jan Rocha in Sao Paolo
"The Brazilian president is going all-out to stop Congress"
 real 28k

Thursday, 10 May, 2001, 13:03 GMT 14:03 UK
Brazil talks tough over corruption
President Fernando Henrique Cardoso
President Cardoso says he is beating corruption
The Brazilian Government has launched a "war operation" to fight off Congressional moves to begin a potentially damaging inquiry into allegations of high-level corruption.

The move follows a senior minister's decision to resign and return to congress in an attempt to stop the investigation from within.

Labour Minister Francisco Dornelles said he could be most useful to the government in the legislature by opposing the inquiry as a deputy in the lower chamber of Congress.

The president ordered ministers to explain... the strong reasons the government has in considering that the probe would hurt the country

Government statement
The inquiry is expected to focus on several corruption scandals which threaten to undermine President Fernando Henrique Cardoso's four-party alliance.

The departure of Mr Dornelles' is another blow to the increasingly embattled government, following the resignation of the integration minister on Tuesday.

Referring to his return to Congress, Mr Dornelles told journalists: "For the moment it is best that I stay here."

"At the moment that [the president] wants my return, I would be honoured, he added.

Frog-breeding scandal

In addition to several senior government figures, the Senate president has also been implicated in the affair.

Former Labour Minister Francisco Dornelles
Mr Dornelles says he can fight the inquiry from within
Among other accusations, his wife is said to have received several million dollars to start a frog-breeding farm in the Amazon.

The scheme was uncovered as a fraud by reporters, who went there and found only a few frogs in run-down sheds.

At least $2bn worth of public funds, meant to finance development, have also disappeared, and public indignation has been roused.

Students are promising to take to the streets, and angry electors all over Brazil are using a new weapon - e-mails - to flood Congressional computers with demands for an inquiry.

Strong reasons

President Cardoso held a meeting with other 11 ministers on Wednesday to discuss strategy ahead of a planned congressional debate on the inquiry next week.

"The president ordered the ministers to explain to Brazilian society the strong reasons the government has in considering that the probe would hurt the country," said a presidential spokesman.

The spokesman said the government does not want the probe because "it is an electoral platform", adding that Mr Cardoso's administration is fighting graft "like never before in our history".

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See also:

03 May 01 | Americas
Brazil's president acts over scandal
18 Apr 01 | Country profiles
Country profile: Brazil
14 Jul 00 | Americas
Graft threat to Brazil's president
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