Portugal’s interior minister has stepped down nearly five months after his driver was involved in a car crash that killed a road worker while the government official was on the back seat.
Eduardo Cabrita, who joined prime minister’s Antonio Costa’s cabinet in 2015, when the Socialist party came to power, had been repeatedly urged to resign since the fatal accident.
He refused to do so, and on Friday triggered an outcry by denying any responsibility, telling reporters “I was just a passenger.”
But Cabrita’s position became untenable after public prosecutors formally accused his driver of negligent homicide, saying that he was driving above the speed limit when he ran over the 43-year-old highway worker, who was a father of two.
“More than anyone else, I regret this tragic, irreparable loss,” Cabrita said in resignation speech adding that he was standing down because opposition parties were “exploiting politically” his recent difficulties.
Cabrita stepped down as Portugal prepares for a snap election next month called by the country’s president after the government failed to get parliamentary approval to pass its state budget bill.
During his time as head of the interior ministry, which oversees firefighters, police and the border services, Cabrita faced a series of scandals, including when a Ukrainian man was beaten to death by officers while in custody at Lisbon airport.
In another mis-step, Cabrita’s ministry in 2019 gave protective bandannas to the country’s firefighters that proved to be flammable. He became interior minister after wildfires in central Portugal killed more than 100 people.
“I assumed this role in a particularly difficult context for the country, in a real situation of national trauma,” he said on Friday. “Since then I have worked intensively to ensure Portugal is a safe country.”
Shortly after Cabrita stepped down, the prime minister told reporters he accepted the minister’s resignation and had communicated it to the president. He also thanked Cabrita for his work.