Brazil’s da Silva announces incoming Cabinet ministers

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BRASILIA, Brazil — Brazil’s President-elect Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva on Friday unveiled some of the faces that will comprise his incoming administration, including his much-awaited pick for finance minister: former Sao Paulo mayor Fernando Haddad.

Haddad’s nominating ends weeks of suspense, which has led to stock volatility and fluctuations in the country’s real currencies. This was despite intense pressure from the financial markets for da Silva’s decision.

Haddad, 59, is a former education minister who has been a member of the leftist Workers’ Party for more than 20 years. He has limited market experience. Experts were puzzled by Da Silva’s choice of a close-knit politician for the job.

” The government’s level concern for the next years’ expenses is not yet clear. Sergio Vale, chief economist at MB Associates, stated that Haddad is less committed to fiscal matters than the market expects and has less dialogue with Congress than da Silva’s former ministers. The stock exchange in Brazil plunged sharply after the Haddad announcement. However, it rebounded later.

Haddad confirmed on Friday that his incoming team would work closely with the person da Silva selects to lead the budget and planning ministry. “We need to have a plural and cohesive team and this needs to be combined with the planning minister.”

The future planning and budget minister still needs to be chosen. The Cabinet position was scrapped by President Jairbolsonaro who chose to create an all-powerful Economics Ministry under the leadership of Paulo Guedes, a University of Chicago-trained liberal.

Haddad was a member of the planning and budget ministry during da Silva’s first administration. Later, he was appointed education minister. This job he held for six years. He resigned from da Silva’s second administration in order to take over Sao Paulo City Hall. After being convicted of corruption and money laundering, he ran for the presidency in 2018, and lost to Jair Bolsonaro, a former federal lawmaker.

On the campaign trail, da Silva – who is universally known as Lula – vowed to maintain and even expand a welfare program that transfers 600 reais (US$115) to 21 million poor families.

Faced with budget limitations, and wanting to be able to keep other campaign promises, the president-elect is seeking to remove the program’s funding – estimated to cost US$27 billion – from the country’s constitutionally enshrined spending cap. While some have praised his efforts to combat poverty and hunger, others have criticised his lack of fiscal discipline.

Another important appointment by Brazil’s new president was Jose Mucio, who was appointed defense minister. Mucio is a former president of Brazil’s Court of Auditors. This is a change from the previous Bolsonaro government that militarized the ministry.

Mucio stated Friday that he would follow the existing hierarchical system of nominees for Armed Forces.

“I will propose to the president that we follow the traditional system.” said Mucio.

Analysts believe that Mucio will face the challenge of depoliticizing the armed forces following Bolsonaro’s unprecedented ascension.

Bolsonaro, a conservative former army captain who has often praised Brazil’s military dictatorship (1964-1985), has relied heavily on current and former soldiers to staff key Cabinet positions. Tensions over Bolsonaro’s interference culminated last March when the Defense Minister was replaced. This military shakeup, many experts believe, was in Bolsonaro’s political interest.

Bolsonaro also sought to expand the role of armed forces in an election that he claimed was susceptible to fraud, despite having no evidence. Following his electoral loss to da Silva on Oct. 30, many protests popped up outside military barracks and facilities across the country, asking for the armed forces to intervene and keep their leader in power.

Other ministers were announced on Friday: Rui Costa, a Worker’s Party member and ex-Bahia state governor; Mauro Vieira (Brazilian ambassador to Croatia), as Cabinet chief of staff; Flavio Dino (Justice and Public Security Ministry) a former governor and senator elect from Maranhao.

AP reporter Diane Jeantet contributed to this report from Rio de Janeiro.

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