During the presidential campaign, Jair Bolsonaro and his team promised to rid Brazil’s federal government from “the vices of the Workers’ Party’s previous administrations.” The President’s Chief of Staff, Onyx Lorenzoni kicked off his tenure by firing “people with a clear ideological bias,” laying off over 320 staffers. Mr. Lorenzoni’s zealous purging caused a curious episode when he could no longer hire any new underlings due to a lack of workers available to process hirings and firings. Moreover, it turned out that only 1 percent of those who were dismissed were actually connected to the Workers’ Party.
Aside from Mr. Lorenzoni, what the first couple of weeks of the new administration has shown us is that the drive to cut public spending has not translated into concrete measures. So far, the government has used the Federal Register to publish the details of restructuring efforts in nearly all ministries—with the exception of Health, Defense, and the Office of the Solicitor General. The transition team boasted an 11-percent cut in the number of politically-appointed positions. While that seems like a lot, it’s not without some caveats.