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Tue 04
One month of transition: what we know so far about Bolsonaro’s way of governing

One month of transition: what we know so far about Bolsonaro’s way of governing

President-elect surrounded himself by technicians, militaries, and politicians, and has already shown clear signs in the last 30 days of how he intends to conduct his administration, at least in the early stages

Débora Álvares

Among indications, strategy plans, governmental structure studies and also internal quarrels, retreats, and redrawings, Jair Bolsonaro’s transition team completes a month’s work at the Banco do Brasil Cultural Center (CCBB) in Brasília on December 6. Less than one month from his inauguration, on January 1, 2019, the way the next president really intends to govern is beginning to get clearer: surrounded by his long-promised technicians and the already expected military core, but also with names with a political background, one of the concessions he had to do throughout the last few weeks.

So far he has appointed 20 ministers, and there are at least three vacant posts. Bolsonaro spent his campaign talking about reducing the state apparatus, and saying that his government would have a maximum of 15 ministries.

The first names to be announced were already known: Onyx Lorenzoni (Chief of Staff), Paulo Guedes (Economy), Gustavo Bebianno (Secretary-General of the Presidency), Marcos Pontes (Science and Technology), general Augusto Heleno (Institutional Security Cabinet), and even Sergio Moro (Justice), who despite not being with Bolsonaro during the campaign, had been discussed for this office long before the election. Little by little, he defined other members of his cabinet and left clear some scenarios.

One of them: Paulo Guedes and Sergio Moro have the independence to act. They formed their teams as they wished, are shaping their respective cabinets the way they want, and indicating their advisors. “They better know they will also answer for that,” Onyx, President’s Chief of Staff, the ministry that coordinates all others, allegedly said to an ally last week.

Another scenario: there’s the need to dialogue with the political class. Bolsonaro decided to meet with specific blocs in the Chamber of Deputies and has sent envoys to open up dialogue gateways with the parties.

Another conclusion: “One cannot be rigid and not negotiate. It is necessary to listen, listen, and listen. Imposing your will, rebelling, will not do him any good. He has calmed down a lot throughout the last weeks. He seems to be understanding what governing is, what is a government. Everybody wants answers, but not everyone does something,” said one minister who has been following closely the transition and met Bolsonaro last week. “Being a president is managing. Managing crises, wills, projects, powers. Managing yourself. It demands control, but, especially, self-control,” he concluded.

Internal disputes

Barely after a week of the transition efforts, the president-elect was already called to pacify a quarrel. Gustavo Bebbiano, former president of his party, PSL, had complained to general Hamilton Mourão, vice-president elect, about the excessive powers of Onyx. An additional office was then created in the team, that of Secretary-General.

Two weeks later, Mourão was complaining about Onyx. This time, it was general Augusto Heleno who had to listen to the complaints. And, once again, Bolsonaro had to intervene – now, in his ministerial cabinet. He dismantled the office of the President’s Chief of Staff, which in its initial design incorporated the current Secretariat of Government – and delegated the position to general Carlos Alberto dos Santos Cruz, who took to himself prerogatives which would be previously delegated to his colleague, thereby reducing his influence.

Still, the vice-president was not satisfied. He resents not having “great roles” in the government. His office consists of merely replacing the president of the Republic in events Bolsonaro will not be able to attend. Extra-officially, the general has taken several other roles, like giving interviews to the international media.

Ways out

One of these internal quarrels within the team has even caused the departure of one of the president’s sons, Carlos Bolsonaro. A city councilor on leave of Rio de Janeiro’s Municipal Chamber, he is considered to be responsible for his father’s social media and had been considered for the Presidency’s Communication Secretariat. He allegedly quarreled with Bebianno, future Secretary-General, who is responsible precisely for handling communication matters.

On the day his name was confirmed in the post, the former PSL president announced Carlos’ departure, which was called by Bolsonaro’s son “a fake caress”. The councilor has always thought Bebianno got close to his father for self-interest reasons and took along people with the same intentions, including minister Onyx Lorenzoni.

Another smaller crisis happened early in the campaign with economist Marcos Cintra, announced last week as Federal Revenue Office director. He wrote an article which refuted the proposal to recreate CPMF, a tax which was imposed on all banking transactions from 1997 to 2007. When Jair Bolsonaro heard about it, he threatened to fire him.

“The decision I took is that whoever criticizes one of us in public will have his head chopped off,” said the president-elect at the beginning of the month in an interview to Band.

What is yet to be announced?

Besides his ministries, the president needs to define by the end of December who will head regulating agencies, autarchies, foundations, and 16 state-owned companies. Among such posts, 24 thousand may be filled by government appointees. Future President’s Chief of Staff Onyx Lorenzoni promised to drastically reduce such nominations, mentioning even a cut of 20 thousand appointees.

Jair Bolsonaro guarantees he will not be using the logic of horse-trading, “tit for tat” politics, in his government, referring to political alliances. However, behind the scenes, it has been said that many second and third-tier offices are being offered to senators in exchange of support in the Senate.

In another front, beyond politics, the idea is that the transition will serve for the president-elect to get acquainted with government specifics, such as the agenda of compromises and events assumed by the previous president for the first 120 days after Bolsonaro’s inauguration.

For that, the team has access to a system interconnecting ministries, “Governa”, which lists every detail of every ministry and the 2019 budgetary plan, so that those who are working at CCBB can make their weekly reports to Onyx, which are then presented to Bolsonaro.

Bolsonaro’s team claimed it will account for the transition process in a new website called “Muda de verdade” (“Change for real”), which is yet to be set up. So far, the communication strategy being used, prioritizing social media, has been maintained, like the routine of announcing decisions in Twitter profiles.



Um mês de transição: o que se sabe até agora sobre o jeito Bolsonaro de governar

Presidente eleito se cercou de técnicos, militares e políticos e já deu sinais claros nos últimos 30 dias de como pretende levar sua gestão, ao menos no início