President Jair Bolsonaro (non-party) discusses with allies a new package of changes in ministries to meet demands made by leaders of the congressional center.
These parliamentarians are pressing for a distribution of positions and for the departure of the Chief of Staff, retired General Luiz Eduardo Ramos.
The parties that support Bolsonaro attribute difficulties to the minister in meeting political demands, in appointments of interest to parliamentarians and in the progress of government actions in their electoral bases.
A change in the Civil House, according to these leaders, would be the centerpiece of a mini-ministerial reform. Exchanges in the Environment and Tourism are also being analyzed.
The chiefs of the center believe that the minister of the Environment, Ricardo Salles, accumulated wear and tear throughout his term and was even more fragile with the Federal Police operation, which investigates the actions of public agents to favor loggers.
The Tourism portfolio, on the other hand, is the target of political greed thanks to its capacity to carry out actions in the states and municipalities where parliamentarians have electoral interests. The current holder, Gilson Machado, was Bolsonaro’s personal choice.
The pressure for exchanges —especially that of the Civil House— comes from the president’s allies in the Chamber and in the Senate, but mainly in the latter, where they demand more influence in the composition of a government that has no senator among its ministers. The Chamber has five holders on the Esplanade of Ministries.
Government policy makers say Bolsonaro must decide in the next 30 days whether to make these changes and whether to include the Civil House in the mini-reform. They think the president might resist switching Ramos, since the two have a close relationship.
Congressmen from the center brought complaints to the president about the general’s political transit through the Chamber and Senate. They also complain about the slow pace of government actions under the minister’s supervision.
Casa Civil is usually one of the most influential folders in the design of the Esplanade. The minister who occupies the post is traditionally the president’s main advisor, a strong interlocutor with Congress and a kind of manager of programs implemented by the federal government.
In the centrão’s plans, Ramos could be replaced by a politician or a name endorsed by parliamentarians. The idea is that, in this way, this group of parties will have direct participation in the decisions taken at the Palácio do Planalto.
One of the politicians’ arguments is that the change would help to oil the government machine for the 2022 electoral contest. In addition to accelerating works and investments in the strongholds of parliamentarians, the exchange would have the objective of expanding the dissemination of these actions and implementing a management ” focused on results”, in the words of a government senator.
For some parliamentarians aligned with the Planalto, the lack of political skills of Bolsonaro and his top aides is wearing down the government and creating difficulties for next year’s presidential race. This weakening tends to be reflected also in the campaigns of deputies and senators who chose to ally themselves with the president.
The discussion about the exchange in the Civil House is the most delicate of the package. In addition to the proximity between Bolsonaro and Ramos, the leaders argue that the ministry has already gone through many changes. The general is the third incumbent in the post — he was preceded by Onyx Lorenzoni (now chief minister of the General Secretariat of the Presidency) and Walter Braga Netto (current minister of Defence).
Even so, lawmakers insist on the replacement, considering that, in none of the three cases, Bolsonaro was right in his choice.
According to allies of the president in Congress, Ramos became “a unanimity” among leaders for not being efficient in solving the demands of lawmakers. The congressmen allege that, as their requests are not granted, they find it difficult to liaise with their benches to approve projects of interest to the Planalto.
Regarding Salles’ exchange, the target of PF investigations for allegedly facilitating timber smuggling, lawmakers say that Bolsonaro has already shown signs that he would replace him.
The problem, remember the government’s allies, is that the president is unpredictable and has already indicated on other occasions that he would change the minister and implemented the change.
Salles’ departure is considered relevant as it provides a signal to foreign investors that Brazil is willing to adopt a new posture in the environmental area, which would contribute to increasing the inflow of resources into the country.
Bolsonaro, however, has publicly praised the minister on recent occasions. According to politicians, they would be signs that he holds prestige inside the palace.
“Minister Ricardo Salles is an exceptional minister, but he has difficulties with well-equipped sectors of the Public Ministry. The environmental Shiites. And the difficulties are enormous. It’s not just Tereza Cristina [ministra da Agricultura] responsible for helping the field produce more. It’s Ricardo Salles too. It’s the federal government too,” Bolsonaro said in May.
The statement came a day after Salles was the target of a search and seizure operation by the PF in Operation Akuanduba.
Gilson Machado was appointed Minister of Tourism in December 2020, after heading Embratur (Brazilian Agency for the International Promotion of Tourism).
A friend of the president, he used to frequent the Planalto and staged lives alongside Bolsonaro on social networks — including last Thursday (10).
Minister Flávia Arruda (Secretary of Government) was cited as an option to replace Machado, but the hypothesis is still treated as remote among government officials.