With President-elect Jair Bolsonaro confirming his pick for the Ministry of Environment, his 22-person cabinet is now fully formed. In 22 days, he and his 22 picks will take office. We break down who are these people, and what to expect from them.
During the presidential race, Jair Bolsonaro promised to dramatically reduce the number of cabinet positions to shrink the Brazilian state. During Dilma Rousseff’s administration, there were 39 ministers. Her successor, Michel Temer, cut that down to 29. Mr. Bolsonaro had promised a “maximum” of 15 cabinet positions, which in the end became 22.
As expected, many of his appointments raised great controversy, ranging from military appointments, evangelical leaders and politicians involved in corruption – despite his promises to crack down on political misconduct.
Mr. Bolsonaro appointed the largest number of military officers to the cabinet since the end of the military dictatorship (1964-1985). There are three Army generals and two captains; one Air Force admiral and a lieutenant colonel. Not to mention the president-elect himself, a former Army captain, and his Vice President, retired Army general Hamilton Mourão.
But controversy came not only become of who Mr. Bolsonaro picked, but from which positions he chose to preserve. Some ministries, such as the Ministry of Labor, were axed, despite being considered “untouchable.” In a country where 12 million people are out of a job, the office responsible for developing job-creation policies had its duties split across several ministries.
Another trait in the Bolsonaro cabinet is the presence of “super ministries,” resulting from the merging of different offices into one. In practice, this risks centralizing a great deal of power into the hands of a few people, who could, in the case of success, cast a shadow over the president when the 2022 campaign gets closer.
Chief of Staff, Congressman Onyx Lorenzoni
A politician for over 20 years, Mr. Lorenzoni is accused of pocketing kickbacks between 2010 and 2014. He is alleged to have received dirty money from the JBS meat packing group. Last week, the Supreme Court formally placed him under investigation.
During his time in Congress, Mr. Lorenzoni was never seen as a great negotiator. He earned his position due to his early support for Mr. Bolsonaro in Congress. But even before taking office, the president-elect has shown signs that his trust in his new Chief of Staff is not absolute. He has named other people to be a liaison between the president’s office and Congress (which is usually the Chief of Staff’s job), and has contradicted and undermined Mr. Lorenzoni on several occasions.
Department of Institutional Security, Army General Augusto Heleno
Retired since 2011, Heleno was the first military commander of the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH). Once his term there was over, he became the military commander in the Amazon. His tenure was marked by his political speeches, constantly challenging then-president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. One time, he described Lula’s policies towards indigenous people as “regrettable, if not to say chaotic” during a lecture at the Military Club.
Military officers are forbidden from expressing political opinions in Brazil, but this did not prevent Gen. Heleno from, for example, defending the Brazilian military regime during a ceremony at the Army Headquarters in Brasilia when he retired.
In 2013, the general was found guilty by the Federal Accounting Court (TCU), for authorizing illegal contracts that cost the government BRL 22 million—and favored his friends.
Secretary of Government, Army General Carlos Alberto dos Santos Cruz
General Santos Cruz was also a commander of the peacekeeping mission in Haiti between 2006 and 2009. He also served as Force Commander of the United Nations’ peacekeeping force in the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUSCO) from 2013 to 2015 and headed the National Secretariat of Public Security during part of President Michel Temer’s term.
The ministry of Santos Cruz is tasked with building political bridges between the presidency and the Congress, facilitating negotiations and agreements of important proposals for the government. There is some skepticism around whether someone so accustomed to giving orders will be able to carry out important and complicated negotiations with parliamentarians who are not always willing to obey.
Secretary-General to the President, Gustavo Bebianno
Mr. Bebianno was Bolsonaro’s lawyer during the campaign. He was also responsible for finding a party that would take Mr. Bolsonaro in, even serving as the Social Liberal Party (PSL) chairman until recently. Mr. Bebianno chose as his number two General Floriano Peixoto, another army general who commanded the Brazilian troops in Haiti (between 2009 and 2010).
Ministry of the Economy, Paulo Guedes
Ultra-libertarian economist Paulo Guedes is the reason big business jumped on the Jair Bolsonaro bandwagon. Despite the former Army captain’s history of privileging a strong state in House votes, the presence of the University of Chicago alumnus served to convince financial actors that Mr. Bolsonaro’s presidency would be a very pro-market administration.
Mr. Guedes, who was promised carte blanche, wants to privatize at least 30 percent of Brazil’s 138 federally owned companies in 2019 alone. Many worry about how long the future economic tsar will stay in office, due to his many differences with the president-elect.
The future minister is under investigation on suspicions of fraud in state-owned pension funds, as The Brazilian Report revealed on October 10 to platinum subscribers. Mr. Guedes is suspected of having benefited from fraudulent operations in pension funds controlled by executives connected to the Workers’ Party and President Michel Temer’s Brazilian Democratic Movement party.
Moreover, his privatization agenda perfectly matches the investments he made (and for which he would profit) when he headed an investment fund. According to a report by The Intercept, “the way he placed his money indicates that in order to be profitable these investments depend on privatizations in the areas such as healthcare, education, and energy, as well as liberal reforms in the financial sector, retail and civil construction.”
Ministry of Mines and Energy, Navy Admiral Bento Costa Lima
A physicist with a postgraduate degree in political science, the Admiral has extensive experience in the field of energy, especially nuclear power. Despite being yet another military name in the Bolsonaro government, the Admiral is not involved in any relevant scandal. On the contrary, he was praised even by the left.
Ministry of Justice and Public Safety, Sérgio Moro
One of the most controversial names in the cabinet, Mr. Moro claimed to have been approached by Bolsonaro’s campaign team while still serving as a federal judge overseeing Operation Car Wash. That detail is important, as during the electoral campaign, the judge lifted the secrecy of a plea bargain testimony made by Lula’s former Finance Minister, statements which were damaging to the former president’s image.
Regardless of Lula’s liability, the timing of the move raised questions about possible political motivations. Hours later, Jair Bolsonaro used those moves to disqualify his closest opponent, Fernando Haddad, of the Workers’ Party. Lula and his party accuse Mr. Moro of conducting a witch hunt against the former president.
Named to conduct a crackdown on corruption crimes, Mr. Moro puzzled many with his words about fellow cabinet members facing similar accusations. He told the press that the future Chief of Staff Onyx Lorenzoni had already “excused himself” after pocketing dirty money. That apparent double standard, experts say, could further erode the image of the Justice system.
Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ernesto Araújo
Another very controversial pick, Mr. Araújo is a low-ranked diplomat whose nomination didn’t please many within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. High-ranked diplomats criticized his lack of experience and even his appreciation of conspiracy theories. The diplomat came to be nicknamed 4Chancellor, in a pun on the famous site 4Chan, linked to the American alt-right movement.
The diplomat defends extreme ideas on his blog, going against so-called “Cultural Marxism,” globalism and pretty much anything left of the center. The new head of Brazil’s diplomatic service also defends a total alignment with the U.S. Mr. Araújo was endorsed by the guru of the new Brazilian right, Olavo de Carvalho.
According to Pablo Ortellado, professor at the University of São Paulo, “[Mr. Araújo] literally sees himself as a Christian crusader in the struggle against globalism, he believes that the left has an antinatalist project that seeks the suicide of humanity, he is a skeptic of global warming—which he calls ‘climatism,’ he defends the bizarre thesis of cultural Marxism and believes that The New York Times is a fake news factory and that truth is found in alternative right-wing outlets.”
Ministry of Defense, Army General Fernando Azevedo e Silva
Gen. Azevedo e Silva was responsible for the safety of the 2016 Olympics and after retirement he became advisor to Supreme Court Chief Justice Dias Toffoli. He worked with General Heleno during the Haitian peacekeeping mission.
In addition to having a strong military background, his proximity and influence over a Supreme Court Justice weighed on his choice. With the attempt by government supporters to change the anti-terrorism law passed by Dilma Rousseff seeking to criminalise social movements such as the MST, the role of defence minister has gained even greater prominence.
Ministry of Education, Ricardo Vélez-Rodríguez
Mr. Vélez-Rodríguez is another name endorsed by Olavo de Carvalho and another crusader against Marxism. The Colombian-born future minister says he wants to fight what the right-wing sees as a coordinated leftist indoctrination of Brazilian students. Like his colleague at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Vélez-Rodríguez opposes what he calls “politically correct globalism,” although he apparently does not dive into conspiracy theories like Mr. Araújo.
Ministry of Health, Luiz Henrique Mandetta
The future minister is under investigation for influence peddling and fraud while implementing an electronic medical record system while he was at the head of the Health Department of Campo Grande (MS) between 2006 and 2010. He has declared not to believe that AIDS prevention campaigns were effective and blamed victims of the disease for having become infected.
He has also been a heavy critic of the More Doctors Program, created during the Dilma Rousseff administration. Last month, Cuba pulled out from the program, in reaction to the statements made against the program by Mr. Bolsonaro. One of the most controversial points of the program is that the Cuban government gets the lion’s share of doctors’ paychecks, leading Mr. Mandetta to say that Cuban doctors came to Brazil on “21st-century slave ships.”
Ministry of Agriculture, Congresswoman Tereza Cristina
Cristina is a leader of the Agricultural Caucus, one of the most conservative parliamentary groups in the Brazilian parliament. Her list of campaign donors includes a rancher accused of murdering an indigenous Guarani-Kaiowá leader. Ms. Cristina is a major supporter of a law that loosens the use of pesticides on crops, which earned her the nickname “Poison Pin-up.”
Ministry of Infrastructure, Army Captain Tarcísio Freitas
Known as a competent engineer, Cap. Freitas has no known involvement with corruption schemes, and worked in Dilma Rousseff’s administration.
Ministry of Science, Technology, and Communication, Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Marcos Pontes
The first Brazilian man in space, Pontes has expertise and training in the areas of science and administration, however he retired prematurely to take advantage of his fame and profit from lectures and self-help books and advertisements (selling pillows, among other products). He was accused by the military prosecutors of being a partner of a company while still in active service (which is illegal), but the investigation was shelved by the Supreme Court. After more than a decade denying being a partner of Portally Eventos e Produções, he became its majority shareholder in 2017.
Ministry of the Environment, Ricardo Sales
Salles is the former secretary of the Environment of the São Paulo government under the Geraldo Alckmin administration. During his term as secretary he and two other members of his team were the targets of a misconduct in office lawsuit due to the suspicion of hiding alterations in maps of the environmental zoning of the Tietê river.
He’s the leader and one of the creators of far-right political movement “Brazil To The Right” (Endireita Brasil). In 2013, Salles participated in an event at the Military Club in which he said that “we will not see generals and colonels, all over 80 years old, arrested because of the crimes of [the Military dictatorship that started in] 64. If these crimes ever occurred” and “between a left-wing dictatorship and one from the right, it was better for Brazil to have had the right-wing one.”
Ministry of Women, Family, and Human Rights, Damares Alves
Ms. Alves is currently an adviser to the evangelical pastor and Senator Magno Malta, who lost re-election and was considered for the ministry by Mr. Bolsonaro, but was eventually overlooked. Ms. Alves is known for a number of disastrous and controversial statements, such as when she said in 2014 that former president Lula wanted to “deconstruct the heteronormativity” by promoting LGBT rights.
When her name was announced, she stated that “it is time for the church to govern,” in a clear affront to Brazil’s secular state. Ms. Alves opposes the right to abortion, legalization of drugs and “gender ideology” and once declared that “women were born to be mothers, their most special role, and to say that they are at war with men is a feminist fairy tale.”
Ministry of Citizenship, Congressman Osmar Terra
A minister during Michel Temer’s administration, he opposes to any legislation that could legalise drug use, supporting tougher laws against the consumption and possession of all kinds of drugs. Mr. Terra advocates abstinence as a public policy against drugs and, as a minister during Temer’s government, has abolished the Harm Reduction policy
He said he did not understand anything from the Culture area, which will be under his supervision and in an interview stated that he “only plays the berimbau [a traditional African Brazilian instrument]” when asked about what he knew about the former Culture ministry.
Ministry of Tourism, Congressman Marcelo Álvaro Antônio
Member of the conservative evangelical parliamentary front, he belongs to Jair Bolsonaro’s party and was the most voted candidate of the state of Minas Gerais. He has no relevant experience for the position or known corruption accusations.
Central Bank, Roberto Campos Neto
Director of the Santander bank, Campos Neto will be president of the Central Bank.
Solicitor General, André Luiz Mendonça
Ph.D. in law with expertise working for the Attorney General’s office and the Comptroller General of the Union as a consultant.
Federal Comptroller General, Army Captain Wagner Rosário
He is the current Comptroller General of the Union (since 2017) and will remain as such.
Ministry of Regional Development, Gustavo Canuto
He’s a civil servant of the Ministry of Planning and currently is executive secretary of Ministry of National Integration that will be merged with the Ministry of Cities to form the Ministry of Regional Development.