Brazil’s new financial office in Washington challenged in Congress

Brazilian embassy in Washington
Coat of arms on the façade of the Brazilian embassy in Washington. Photo: DCStockPhotography/Shutterstock

Congressman Kim Kataguiri, leader of the center-right Free Brazil Movement (MBL), asked Prosecutor General Augusto Aras to sue Economy Minister Paulo Guedes and Foreign Affairs Minister Carlos França for alleged mismanagement of public funds in the process of opening a representative office of the Economy Ministry in Washington D.C. 

On Thursday, President Jair Bolsonaro and Messrs. Guedes and França signed a decree foreseeing the creation of the office, which will be led by Economy Ministry Secretary Carlos da Costa.

Mr. Costa was responsible for drafting the decree, which will see his salary quadruple to USD 13,300 a month. The legal instrument states that the office will operate within the Brazilian Embassy building, yet its duties will be similar to that of the embassy’s own economic affairs bureau. 

Per Mr. Bolsonaro’s decree, the newly-created position will promote “investment opportunities in Brazil” to U.S.-based stakeholders. The ordinance disgruntled diplomats, largely because of Mr. França’s involvement. The feeling is that he has relinquished the Foreign Affairs Ministry’s power to accommodate a political appointment for Mr. Costa.

Mr. Kataguiri argues that the decree itself is unconstitutional. He recalls Supreme Court precedents that blocked presidents from creating new government bureaus by way of executive orders, saying all such processes should be analyzed by Congress.

“The decree is illegal. Federal law grants the Foreign Affairs Ministry the duty of economically representing Brazil abroad. This decree commissions this role to the Economy Ministry, which legally doesn’t have the responsibility of representing Brazilian interests abroad.” 

“The president and the two cabinet ministers we have mentioned acted against the Constitution and Supreme Court precedents by creating a position by decree. They ignored all case law and put the treasury at risk,” he adds.