Corruption scandal

Bolsonaro administration fires cabinet minister amid campaign financing scandal

Gustavo Bebbiano was dismissed after five days of crisis, exposure, and clashes with Bolsonaro clan

Gustavo Bebianno (right) was one of the civilians who held high-ranking positions in Bolsonaro’s highly militarized government / Mauro Pimentel/AFP

Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro fired on Monday, Feb. 18, his Secretary-General Gustavo Bebianno, a presidential spokesman announced, amid a campaign financing scandal involving dummy candidates in the country’s 2018 general elections.

Spokesman Otávio Otávio Rêgo Barros did not explain why one of Bolsonaro’s most important aides was fired, only claiming it was a “personal decision” by the president.

Bebianno was one of Bolsonaro’s closest allies in his far-right presidential campaign and a civilian holding a high-ranking position in the highly militarized government that took office on Jan. 1. The now former Secretary-General also served as the temporary chair of president Bolsonaro’s Social Liberal Party (PSL) during last year’s election.

He will be replaced by the retired army general Floriano Peixoto Floriano Peixoto Vieira Neto. The new cabinet minister is the eighth military man to hold one of Bolsonaro’s 22 ministries. The nomination of Neto for the position means a victory for the military sector of the government.

The scandal

The newspaper Folha de S. Paulo reported earlier this month that the PSL sponsored a scheme to channel money allegedly given to phony candidates in state elections into companies connected to members of the party.

The scandal compromises Bolsonaro’s image, as his alleged support for ethics and the fight against corruption has helped get him and his fellow party members elected.

Bebianno was fired after five days of attacks coming from different sectors within Bolsonaro’s own base, a picture that has become typical in his 40+ days in office. The now former Secretary-General and the president’s youngest son, Rio de Janeiro councilman Carlos Bolsonaro, clashed as Carlos accused Bebianno of lying, in a failed attempt to defuse the crisis in the government.

Edition: Nina Fideles | Translated by Aline Scátola