Brazil: the president of Petrobras, barely named, already sacked by Jair Bolsonaro
José Mauro Coelho, president of oil giant Petrobras, sacked after 40 days in office.  Here, during a radio broadcast, in Brasilia, in August 2021.

Barely time to settle in his office that he has already had to pack his boxes. After forty days at the head of Petrobras, the Brazilian national oil company, José Mauro Coelho was dismissed from his post, the third dismissal in just over a year. The news was announced at 10 p.m. on Monday May 23 – after the stock markets closed – through a statement from the Ministry of Mines and Energy (MME). In the process, the government appointed head of the company Caio Paes de Andrade, a close friend of Paulo Guedes, the very liberal Minister of the Economy.

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If the news was able to surprise within the company, it had already been recorded for a few days in the government. President Jair Bolsonaro had even assured, in one of his weekly interventions on social networks, that he “wanted to change a lot of people” within the company 50.2% owned by the Brazilian state. During another intervention, he was angry with the policy of aligning prices of the oil company with those of international prices, while the company at the same time posted a quarterly profit of 44.5 billion reais (8.70 billion euros). “Your profit is rape, it’s absurd”, he fumed.

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Five months before the presidential election, it was therefore urgent for the government in place to try to put a break on the dizzying increases in fuel prices that are hitting the country, the last one having taken place at the beginning of May with an increase of 8.87% of the diesel price. Because Jair Bolsonaro, in search of a new mandate and in second position in the voting intentions behind ex-president Lula (Workers’ Party), knows that he is playing big. According to a recent poll conducted by the Datafolha Institute, most Brazilians (68%) hold it responsible for the rise in prices at the pump.

“Electoral Maneuver”

Qualified by several experts in the press as “staggering scandal” and of “electoral maneuver”the dismissal of José Mauro Coelho and his replacement by Caio Paes de Andrade appear above all as a contradiction. “The ultra-liberalism advocated by the Minister of the Economy Paulo Guedes does not fit well a priori with a policy of controlling fuel prices, notes Marco Antonio Rocha, economist and professor at the University of Campinas. If he must reassure the financial circles – one of the levers of Bolsonaro’s rise to power – he must also reassure, even seduce, other categories, essential for the re-election of the latter. This is the case of the rather “lulist” working classes and largely impacted by the rise in the price of foodstuffs, which have increased sharply because they are mainly transported by road. Without forgetting truckers, always capable of paralyzing the country, and agribusiness companies, which are also very dependent on energy prices. »

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