Apex Brasil the latest stage of feuds within Bolsonaro government

. May 07, 2019
apex brasil

In just four months in office, the ideological patchwork that forms ‘Bolsonarism’ has staged several internal wars. The main conflict is between the government’s military wing and a group of ideological zealots, guided by self-proclaimed philosopher Olavo de Carvalho. The two groups have been at each other’s throats on social media, accusing the other of essentially sabotaging the administration.

The conflict between the generals and the ideologues was at the center of the crisis within the Education Ministry—with Mr. Carvalho and his acolytes winning that round and controlling the department. The military top brass seems, however, to be winning the fight within Brazil’s Trade and Investment Promotion Agency, commonly known as Apex Brasil.

</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Apex is already on its third president of 2019—at a pace of almost one per month. On May 6, retired Navy Rear Admiral Sergio Segovia took office and immediately embarked on a clearout. The first casualty was the agency&#8217;s business director Letícia Castelani. She was handpicked by Foreign Minister Ernesto Araújo (who is ultimately responsible for the agency) thanks to her hardcore support for Jair Bolsonaro and proximity to Congressman Eduardo Bolsonaro, who studied with her at a São Paulo-based far-right think tank.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Also out was corporate management director Márcio Coimbra. Like Ms. Castelani, he had been nominated by Mr. Araújo. &#8220;The arrival of a new president will bring changes to the agency, which has already begun,&#8221; said Apex in a statement. By change, read: less influence from the government ideologues, and more control by the military. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">In the future, the agency could be taken from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and placed under another government department.</span></p> <h2>800 million reasons to want Apex</h2> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Since before Jair Bolsonaro took office as president, Apex Brasil has been the subject of disputes. Initially attached to the Ministry of Industry and Foreign Trade (which merged with the Finance Ministry to form the Ministry of the Economy), the president moved the agency to the purview of the Foreign Affairs Ministry, but it was not a peaceful transition. Economy Minister Paulo Guedes wanted the agency for himself—and now even the Agriculture Ministry is bidding for it.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The agency has a BRL 800 million budget for 2019. In a cash-strapped administration, that is gold. Two-thirds of Apex&#8217;s budget comes from the &#8220;</span><a href="https://brazilian.report/money/2019/02/20/understanding-brazils-sistema-s/"><span style="font-weight: 400;">Sistema S</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">&#8220;—a group of non-profit organizations run by the private sector and financed by payroll taxes. But despite being private, its head is appointed by the president and its spending scrutinized by the Federal Accounting Court.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Apex is not a regular government agency—but rather a hybrid body. It is actually an &#8220;autonomous social service,&#8221; described by law as &#8220;a nonprofit legal entity governed by private law, of public interest and good.&#8221; It was created in 2003 as an element of soft power, trying to stimulate business opportunities for Brazilian companies abroad—taking them to international events, matching them up with possible foreign partners, and fostering cooperation deals in Brazil.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The agency has nine international offices in countries considered to be &#8220;relevant global markets,&#8221; such as Angola, the U.S., Cuba, China, Belgium, Russia, the United Arab Emirates, and Colombia. Those who defend keeping Apex under Foreign Minister Ernesto Araújo say that the agency can use embassies and consulates as operational bases, which facilitates its work.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">But other government members want the shift of Apex to turn to the agribusiness sector—almost exclusively. Today, it focuses on a few other areas, such as audiovisual, infrastructure, energy, and food products. </span></p> <h2>Disputes already taking their toll</h2> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The power struggle within Apex risks compromising Brazil&#8217;s participation at this year&#8217;s Cannes Film Festival, which takes place in June. The new administration has decided not to renew a contract between the agency and the union for audiovisual producers in São Paulo—which includes ad-makers. This means Brazil&#8217;s ad agencies could be left out of the industry&#8217;s biggest event in the world.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The project &#8220;Cinema from Brazil&#8221; exists since 2006, and is headed by industry professionals—with Apex&#8217;s sponsorship. This time around, however, the agency has decided to head the operation itself, which has caused discomfort within the sector. &#8220;Apex didn&#8217;t invent the program. Now, it wants to take our space and make us work for them,&#8221; </span><a href="https://www1.folha.uol.com.br/ilustrada/2019/04/crise-na-apex-pode-tirar-brasil-do-mercado-do-festival-de-cannes.shtml"><span style="font-weight: 400;">said</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> André Sturm, who is behind the &#8220;Cinema from Brazil&#8221; initiative, last month.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">If ad-makers decide to boycott the initiative, that could be a major flop for Apex.

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