Brazil’s Bolsonaro releases ministers in move to bolster re-election bid

Brazil’s Bolsonaro releases ministers in move to bolster re-election bid

March 31, 2022

By Lisandra Paraguassu

BRASILIA (Reuters) – Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro on Thursday relieved nine ministers in a formality that will pave the way for them to run in the country’s Oct. 2 general elections and possibly bolster the far-right leader’s struggling re-election campaign.

The list of names, released in the official government gazette on Thursday, includes heavy-hitters such as Agriculture Minister Tereza Cristina Dias, Infrastructure Minister Tarcisio Freitas and Labor Minister Onyx Lorenzoni.

Bolsonaro is betting the ex-ministers, who are running for seats in Congress and governorships across the country, can drum up regional support and revitalize his campaign, which faces headwinds from high inflation, especially for fuel and food.

Their departures are part of a larger game of musical chairs in Brazil, where many of the country’s leading political figures are obliged by electoral law to make crucial decisions now about their own electoral aspirations in October.

Sao Paulo Governor Joao Doria, who leads Brazil’s most populous and richest state, will announce his decision not to run for president later on Thursday, local newspapers reported, citing close center-right allies of the governor.

According to the reports, Doria, a member of the Brazilian Social Democracy Party (PSDB), will stay on as governor. His office did not respond to a request for comment.

Doria’s decision could pave the way for Rio Grande do Sul Governor Eduardo Leite to run for president on the PSDB ticket. He stepped down as governor of Brazil’s southernmost state earlier this week.

Bolsonaro, a former army captain who has lost public support over his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, is facing a tough re-election fight. Former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, a leftist, would get 43% of first-round votes, compared with 26% for Bolsonaro, pollster Datafolha reported last week.

One widely expected name that was missing from the list of ministers stepping down on Thursday was Defense Minister Walter Braga Netto, who is widely expected to run as Bolsonaro’s vice president. Although the defense minister’s resignation was not announced, his transfer has already been scheduled, with Army chief Paulo Sergio Nogueira due to take charge of the ministry.

The current vice president, Hamilton Mourao, is planning to run for a Senate seat.

(Reporting by Lisandra Paraguassu; Writing by Gabriel Stargardter; Editing by Brad Haynes and Paul Simao)