Brazil's federal justice minister has accused Rio state's military police chiefs of ties to organized crime, sparking threats by local authorities Wednesday that they will pursue legal action against him.
Justice and Public Safety Minister Torquato Jardim said in an interview Tuesday that Rio state military commanders were "organized crime partners."
Jardim, a close ally of President Michel Temer, was being interviewed after an incident in which a military police commander was gunned down on October 26.
Local authorities said it was an assault and robbery, but Jardim called it a case of "settling scores" in which the victim could have been personally involved.
In a common robbery, "nobody assaults someone, by pumping dozens of bullets into someone who happens to be a (police) colonel," Jardim said.
The military police is under the authority of individual states in Brazil.
Rio's security chief, Roberto Sa, said Wednesday that the public prosecutor's office would launch a "judicial inquiry" into Jardim, a common step in defamation cases.
Federal Chamber of Deputies leader Rodrigo Maia, whose father was a mayor of Rio, demanded that Jardim prove his allegation.
Violence between gangs and clashes with police have become increasingly frequent and deadly following last year's Rio Olympics.
More than 110 police officers have died since the start of the year in Rio.