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August 19, 2011

Brazilian Minister of Agriculture Resigns Under Controversy

The Brazilian Minister of Agriculture, Wagner Rossi, offered his resignation late Wednesday to President Roussef and she accepted. Rossi submitted his resignation after magazine articles in Brazil listed a series of irregularities that allegedly occurred in his prior post as head of Conab. The Minister has denied all the accusations and maintains his innocence.

This is the fourth minister to be sacked by President Roussef in the eight months she has been president. The first minister to resign was her Chief of Staff. The second resignation was the Minister of Transportation who was accused of accepting kickbacks from contractors working on infrastructure projects. The third minister to resign was the Minister of Defense and now the Minister of Agriculture. The rash of resignations has put a cloud over the Roussef administration. The president has defended her actions by pointing out that most of the ministers were held over from the prior administration.

The new Minister of Agriculture will be Congressman Mendes Ribeiro from the state of Rio Grande do Sul. A lawyer by training, Ribeiro entered politics in 1974 at the local level and was serving his fifth term in the Brazilian Congress. Before being nominated for the agricultural post, he was the leader of the PMDB party in congress.

Under Rossi's tenure, the agriculture sector has rebounded due to strengthening worldwide commodity prices and increased demand for commodities from China, which is Brazil's number one trading partner. In recent months, the minister had been struggling with trying to design a plan that would limit the foreign purchase of Brazilian farmland while still allowing foreign investment in the agriculture sector. The Brazilian Congress is currently debating legislation dealing with this issue. Many foreign investors are waiting for this issue to be resolved before they commit more resources to Brazil.