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Mayor of Rio de Janeiro arrested on suspicion of corruption

Rio de Janeiro Mayor Marcelo Crivella in a mask with "Rio Prefeitura" on it.
Rio de Janeiro Mayor Marcelo Crivella in August.
(Silvia Izquierdo / Associated Press)

The mayor of Rio de Janeiro, Marcelo Crivella, was arrested Tuesday in connection with an alleged kickback scheme, deepening the political turmoil besetting Brazil’s postcard city.

The evangelical pastor-turned-politician is scheduled to leave office Jan. 1 after losing a reelection bid to his predecessor, Eduardo Paes.

Investigations earlier this year showed Crivella had close links to Rafael Alves, a businessman who was also arrested Tuesday.

Investigators alleged that Alves decided which companies would be awarded contracts and promised to give such contracts in exchange for payments. Alves never held an official position, but his brother was the head of the city’s tourism office. Alves also held frequent meetings with Crivella.

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Jorge Felippe, the president of Rio’s City Council, will assume office while Crivella is in custody. Deputy Mayor Fernando MacDowell died of a heart attack in 2018.

Crivella, an ally of President Jair Bolsonaro, told reporters upon his arrival at the Rio police headquarters that his arrest was unfair. He also linked it to what he said was his willingness to fight corporate interests and lobbyists.

The annual Carnival parade of flamboyant samba schools in Rio de Janeiro won’t be held in February because of the coronavirus.

“I am the mayor who most fought corruption,” Crivella said as he walked into Rio police headquarters.

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Crivella repeatedly said during his campaign that Paes, who was mayor when Rio hosted the 2016 Olympic Games, would be jailed if elected because of other investigations.

Crivella is not the only top official in Rio de Janeiro state to be under fire. Gov. Wilson Witzel has been suspended from office since August, when one of Brazil’s top courts linked him to irregularities in the healthcare sector amid the fight against COVID-19.

Witzel is also battling impeachment proceedings that could give his job to another person under investigation, Deputy Gov. Claudio Castro.

More than 600 people were killed by police in Brazil’s Rio de Janeiro state in the first months of this year, and most were black or biracial.

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Five former Rio state governors have been jailed in recent years amid corruption charges.

Police officers arrived at Crivella’s home at 6 a.m. to arrest him, local TV coverage showed. They had also visited the mayor’s home and office in September to collect documents related to the probe.

The 63-year-old Crivella is a bishop of the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God, whose leaders are key supporters of Bolsonaro.


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