Brazil 2019

Bolsonaro’s transition team: internal contradictions and conservatism

Despite their differences, military men, neoliberals, traditional politicians will have to live together as of January

Brazil’s current Chief of Staff Eliseu Padilha met last Monday with Bolsonaro’s transition team leader Onyx Lorenzoni / Fernando Aguiar/Casa Civil

As Brazil’s president-elect Jair Bolsonaro’s transition team will start to work in Brasília this Wednesday, Nov. 7, under the command of congressman Onyx Lorenzoni, the promises of political renewal, leaving behind “old-school” politicians and pursuing national sovereignty, now sound like ideals that are far away from the group that will take office in January.

As of now, nine cabinet positions have been or are about to be filled, and their members can be broken down into three pillars of interests: neoliberals, military men, and traditional politicians – and no women. What they have in common, including among economic liberals, is the political conservatism.

Military men are the largest group in Bolsonaro’s team, holding 50 percent of the positions. In addition to the president-elect himself, who is a retired army captain, Brazil’s next administration will have general Hamilton Mourão as the vice president, general Augusto Heleno Pereira as the minister of Defense, and former Air Force pilot and astronaut Marcos Pontes as the head of the ministry of Science and Technology.

Going against ideals of nationalism and protection of Brazil’s wealth, Bolsonaro will have the neoliberals Paulo Guedes and Sergio Moro as economy and justice ministers, respectively.

Before the ballots confirmed Bolsonaro’s win, historian Patrícia Valim spoke with Brasil de Fato Radio about this issue. “[Bolsonaro] is an insanely unprepared, self-proclaimed nationalist. But even his nationalism is debatable, because he wants to sell everything,” she said, arguing the now president-elect does not see a problem in his own contradictions. “It’s an authoritarian individual who has no ability to hold conversations, who changes opinions three times a day. He says one thing in the morning and a different thing in the afternoon,” Valim said.

Bolsonaro’s most important economic adviser, Guedes presses for the privatization of state-owned companies even in strategic industries for the economy, and advocates for State reduction as a way out of the country’s crisis.

Sergio Moro, the president-elect’s appointed justice minister, played a similar role in Operation Car Wash, which weakened state-owned oil giant Petrobras and opened the way for the Michel Temer administration to sell the country’s pre-salt oil fields – instead of punishing corrupt business executives, the Curitiba judge barred the company’s agreements with contractors across the country, making unemployment soar and plunging the country into a deepening recession.

Another clear contradiction in Bolsonaro’s choices is regarding the “old politics,” as old faces in Brazil’s Congress were invited to join the government in decision-making positions, despite the “anti-system,” “anti-corruption” around which the far-right candidate and his supporters’ discourse revolves.

The chief of staff and person in charge of the presidential transition, Lorenzoni has connections with members of parliament who are part of the influential rural caucus.

Lorenzoni himself is a member of the so-called “bullet caucus,” which represents the security and pro-gun lobby. He has been a politician for more than 15 years and has also been a supporter of current Brazilian president Michel Temer and his labor reform.

Political scientist Marcio Juliboni believes the choice for Lorenzoni is the biggest contradiction of Bolsonaro’s electoral discourse.

"Onyx Lorenzoni is not a 100-percent righteous character. He appeared in [Operation] Car Wash [investigations], he admitted he received undeclared money from JBS [one of the world’s biggest meat-packing firms],” Juliboni said, adding that the congressman represents the same old politics that Bolsonaro claims to fight.

Trap

Another veteran politician that should be part of the team is ex-senator Magno Malta, appointed for the Ministry of Family, a cabinet-level ministry that will replace several social services offices.

The former congressman and future minister in Bolsonaro’s government was charged by the Federal Police in 2017 with conspiracy, money laundering, and graft.

Juliboni believes the president-elect is setting a trap for himself: “He wants a righteous government based on a cronyist support team,” he pointed out.

Edition: Daniel Giovanaz