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Uruguay economy minister resigns over airline scandal

23 december 2013, 15:32
0
Uruguay's economy minister has resigned as he faces a probe over the 2012 collapse of national airline Pluna -- a scandal that has tainted President Jose Mujica's administration, AFP reports.

Fernando Lorenzo stepped down Saturday "on his own impulse, to facilitate the justice department's work," Mujica said in a message to reporters, in which he emphasized that the government will maintain its economic policy plans.

The government has not yet announced a successor to Lorenzo. Mujica however called him "a brilliant minister entirely devoted to the interest of the country."

Lorenzo, 53, had been in the government since March 2010, after taking over the ministry from Daniel Aristo, now vice president.

Before resigning, Lorenzo testified for three hours before a tribunal charged with investigating organized crime.

Prosecutor Juan Gomez has asked to put Lorenzo on trial for abusing his position, but Judge Adriana de los Santos has turned the matter over to the Supreme Court, Lorenzo's lawyer, Amadeo Ottati, told reporters.

A Supreme Court decision on whether Lorenzo should stand trial "could take months," Ottati said.

"I feel very calm about the proceedings," Lorenzo has said, adding that he was ready to face the probe.

Uruguay is investigating the bankrupcy of Pluna, in particular an auction in which Spanish company Cosmo Lineas Aereas bid to buy the Pluna's equipment but later said it had insufficient capital to make the purchase.

It is this aspect of the affair in which Lorenzo is implicated.

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