Last updated: 03:03 PM ET, Tue March 29 2016

How Will Brazil’s Political Upheaval Impact 2016 Summer Olympics?

Destination & Tourism | Brian Major | March 29, 2016

How Will Brazil’s Political Upheaval Impact 2016 Summer Olympics?

Photo by David Cogswell

The turmoil enveloping Brazil’s government, economy and president, Dilma Rousseff, this week penetrated the critical visitor arrivals sector as Henrique Eduardo Alves, the country’s minister of tourism, resigned Monday according to international press reports.

Already troubled by a shrinking economy and rising unemployment and inflation, Rousseff faces threats of impeachment over opposition lawmakers’ allegations she manipulated government accounts to hide growing deficits.  

Also this week the Brazilian Bar Association filed a request to impeach Rousseff for alleged crimes including granting international soccer group FIFA tax-exempt status during the 2014 World Cup. Her governing Worker’s Party has been the subject of a long-running bribery investigation involving Petrobras, the state oil company.

Alves is a member of the Brazilian Democratic Movement Party (PMDB), which is expected to leave the Roussseff government’s coalition alliance Tuesday. His departure and the country’s tumultuous political and economic situation have cast a pall over the nation’s scheduled hosting of the Summer Olympic Games in Rio de Janiero.

Rousseff named Alves tourism minister in 2015, saying that despite its successful hosting of the 2014 World Cup Brazil faced an "extraordinary challenge" with the Olympic Games in August.  She positioned the event as another opportunity for Brazil to promote travel to the country, noting tourism accounts for four percent of Brazil’s gross domestic product.

READ MORE: How Brazil's Mega-Events Are Courting US Tourists

"We all know that tourism is a profitable industry, a huge importance for the generation of employment and income, to regional development, and the country's growth," said Alves following his appointment.

The Brazilian president is facing growing public protests amidst charges of corruption among members of the Worker’s Party. Brazilian Congress members agreed in December to open impeachment proceedings, leading to an ongoing court battle. Rousseff has denied the charges, calling efforts to impeach her tantamount to a coup.

Rousseff's deputy, Michel Temer, is the PMDB’s leader and would become president should she be removed.

The departure of Temer’s 69-member party from the government coalition would impact Rousseff’s future, as she needs the support of one third of 513 members of the lower house of Congress to avoid impeachment.

READ MORE: 5 Ways Brazil is Fanning Summer Olympics Fervor

In a interview last year, Alves said Brazil’s government has prepared carefully to accommodate the millions of visitors expected to attend the Olympic Games.

“The World Cup left a great legacy to strengthen the infrastructure with improvements in airports, urban mobility in the host cities, [and] the integration of public agencies,” said Alves. The government has partnered with private organizations to spend millions on accommodations, transportation and infrastructure in preparation for the Olympics.

“In addition to public works, which are changing the outline of the city, expanding the supply of hotel beds, which required investments of $663.8 million, is of vital importance for Rio,” he added.  “The airport concession plan allows the federal government, with an investment of $1.7 billion in 13 new terminals, an increase of 81 percent to our service capacity. All these investments create a favorable ground for the 2016 Olympics.”

Of course, since that time Brazil has faced not only the current economic and political crises, but concerns regarding travel to the country in the aftermath of the Zika virus outbreak. 

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