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Pacheco wins Senate President vote in major win for Bolsonaro

. Feb 01, 2021
Pacheco wins Senate President vote in major win for Bolsonaro The Senate during the election of its directive board. Photo: Jefferson Rudy/AS/CN

Few Brazilians would be able to pick first-term Senator Rodrigo Pacheco out of a crowd of one, but the 44-year-old lawyer became one of the most powerful men in Brazil on Monday night, after he was elected Senate President.

He won the race against fellow rookie Simone Tebet, by a 57-21 landslide.

A divisive figure, Mr. Pacheco is notable for his work behind the scenes in Brasília’s corridors of power.

Some of his peers say he is little more than a proxy for outgoing <a href="https://brazilian.report/power/2019/02/02/senate-president-election/">Senate President Davi Alcolumbre</a> — who ushered his rise to the head of the upper house — while others call him a &#8220;true born leader.&#8221;</p> <p>Regardless, his win is good news for President Jair Bolsonaro. The pair have met twice already, and promised &#8220;political stability&#8221; for the remainder of the president&#8217;s term.&nbsp;</p> <figure class="wp-block-image size-large"><img loading="lazy" width="1024" height="715" src="https://brazilian.report/wp-content/uploads/2021/02/50860083318_458f97e58d_k-1024x715.jpg" alt="Rodrigo Pacheco, the Senate's new president. Photo: Roque de Sá/AS/CN" class="wp-image-55973" srcset="https://cdn-statics.brazilian.report/wp-content/uploads/2021/02/50860083318_458f97e58d_k-1024x715.jpg 1024w, https://cdn-statics.brazilian.report/wp-content/uploads/2021/02/50860083318_458f97e58d_k-300x209.jpg 300w, https://cdn-statics.brazilian.report/wp-content/uploads/2021/02/50860083318_458f97e58d_k-768x536.jpg 768w, https://cdn-statics.brazilian.report/wp-content/uploads/2021/02/50860083318_458f97e58d_k-1536x1073.jpg 1536w, https://cdn-statics.brazilian.report/wp-content/uploads/2021/02/50860083318_458f97e58d_k-600x419.jpg 600w, https://cdn-statics.brazilian.report/wp-content/uploads/2021/02/50860083318_458f97e58d_k.jpg 2048w" sizes="(max-width: 1024px) 100vw, 1024px" /><figcaption>Rodrigo Pacheco, the Senate&#8217;s new president. Photo: Roque de Sá/AS/CN </figcaption></figure> <h2>With a little help from my friends</h2> <p>Mr. Pacheco&#8217;s win was largely orchestrated by his outgoing predecessor Davi Alcolumbre. Besides convincing his <a href="https://brazilian.report/power/2020/04/17/bolsonaro-breaks-brazil-most-powerful-parties/">right-wing Democratas party</a> to back a relatively inexperienced candidate, Mr. Alcolumbre also introduced the new Senate President to Jair Bolsonaro and garnered support from the opposition. In the end, his winning coalition was made up of political parties from all ends of the spectrum, from conservative right-wingers to the <a href="https://brazilian.report/opinion/2019/08/04/deinstitutionalization-brazil-workers-party/">center-left Workers&#8217; Party</a>.</p> <p>Indeed, it was Davi Alcolumbre who managed to suffocate the candidacy of Simone Tebet, who was seen as the only credible rival to Mr. Pacheco&#8217;s election until last week. In talks with Ms. Tebet&#8217;s Brazilian Democratic Movement (MDB) party, Mr. Alcolumbre managed to convince the group to back his candidate in exchange for the first vice-president&#8217;s seat. With no support from her own party, Ms. Tebet was forced to stand as an independent candidate.</p> <h2>Another ally for Bolsonaro</h2> <p>By wading into the Senate vote and backing Mr. Pacheco, President Bolsonaro took a significant risk. In the case of defeat, he would be left with an opponent in charge of the upper house of Congress, who could make the president&#8217;s life a living hell by launching parliamentary investigations against members of the government and ignoring the administration&#8217;s legislative agenda. The risk paid off, and early signs show that the relationship between Messrs. Bolsonaro and Pacheco should be beneficial to the president.</p> <p>Meanwhile, the victory of Rodrigo Pacheco means that Mr. Bolsonaro will now have to keep up his end of the bargain. Before endorsing Mr. Pacheco, the president pledged to offer a spot in his government to Davi Alcolumbre, who has his eyes on a cabinet position with &#8220;money for infrastructure works.&#8221;</p> <p>&#8220;[Mr. Alcolumbre] only has two years left of his term. The ideal world for him would be to deliver lots of projects in his home state [of Amapá], particularly regarding the <a href="https://brazilian.report/society/2020/11/10/cut-off-amapa-state-endures-week-without-electricity/">electricity issue</a> there. He&#8217;d become the savior and win re-election in 2022,&#8221; one source close to Mr. Alcolumbre tells <strong>The Brazilian Report</strong>.</p> <p>In November, 90 percent of Amapá state was left without electricity after local thermoelectric plants were struck by lightning.&nbsp;</p> <p>Despite delays, the federal government intervened, Mr. Alcolumbre posed for photo ops alongside President Bolsonaro, but even this was not enough to elect his brother Josiel as mayor of state capital Macapá. This, in fact, is another score that the outgoing Senate President wants to settle. His <a href="https://congressoemfoco.uol.com.br/legislativo/bolsonaro-reforca-o-convite-e-davi-alcolumbre-fica-mais-perto-de-ministerio/">desire</a> for a spot in the cabinet would also involve his brother stepping in as his substitute in the Senate.</p> <p>Davi Alcolumbre reportedly has his eyes on the Regional Development Ministry or the Mines and Energy Ministry. These posts are occupied by Rogério Marinho and Bento Albuquerque, respectively, who are among Mr. Bolsonaro&#8217;s favorite cabinet members. According to sources close to the president, the plan is to reshuffle the cabinet in order to find a place for Davi Alcolumbre.&nbsp;</p> <p>“There is likely to be some big movement here in the coming weeks. There are some afraid of losing, others hoping to win. There&#8217;s a bit of everything. Even those who are favored by the president could leave because of political pressure,&#8221; one cabinet member tells <strong>The Brazilian Report</strong>.

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Débora Álvares

Débora Álvares has worked as a political reporter for newspapers Folha de S.Paulo, O Estado de S.Paulo, Globo News, HuffPost, among others. She specializes in reporting on Brasilia, working behind-the-scenes coverage at the Executive, Legislative, and Judiciary branches of government.

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