Busy first week for Brazil's Bolsonaro

Busy first week for Brazil's Bolsonaro

Rio de Janeiro (AFP) – It was an exhausting first week for Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, who demonstrated his determination to implement his conservative agenda on crime, corruption and the economy – and caused more than a controversy.

Here's an overview of what the right-wing former army captain, who is officiating on January 1, intends to do since Sunday's election.

– Conservative Cabinet –

Bolsonaro, who wants to reduce the number of ministries from 29 to 15, has so far announced five cabinet collections, mostly political outsiders. Advisers say that 80 percent of the cabinet is already lined up.

– Extremely free market economist Paulo Guedes will lead a "super-ministry" that brings together finance, planning, industry and commerce.

– The Bolsonaro military general, General Augusto Heleno, will be Minister of Defense.

– Astronaut Marcos Pontes, the first Brazilian in space, will be Minister of Science.

– Anti-corruption judge Sergio Moro will be Minister of Justice.

– To compensate for the political inexperience of the rest, the veteran Onyx Lorenzoni will be the chief of staff.

Bolsonaro got stuck in controversy and setbacks during his government formation.

The choice of the US president for all economic aspects is to put Guedes' economic hero to the top – but some warn that his new "superministry" is so large that it is "impossible to handle", as the financial paper Valor put it ,

Meanwhile, Moro – who jailed left-wing ex-president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva – has been voiced by some critics over his decision to join a far-right government.

"Moro has irrevocably affected his independence as a judge," said Folha de Sao Paulo, Brazil's leading newspaper.

Following repeated flip-flops, Bolsonaro disagreed with his decision to merge the ministries of Agriculture and the Environment, which critics claimed were selling their natural resources to their agricultural supporters.

– Hardline Guidelines –

Bolsonaro, after avoiding the beleaguered pension reform issue late in the campaign, confirmed that he would attack Brazil's "monster deficit" by overhauling his bloated pension system.

The markets are calling for reform, but it is a political minefield.

The retirement age in Brazil may be 50 for women and 55 for men.

"If we try to change the value to 65, there's a good chance we'll fail, so we're aiming for 62," Bolsonaro said.

It remains to be seen whether he will receive a meaningful reform through Congress, in which his party will not have a majority.

Bolsonaro also doubled his vow to ease the gun control laws so that "good people" can take justice into their own hands.

Criminals, he said, "are held accountable either by law or by collapse."

His future Secretary of Defense, meanwhile, supported a plan to use snipers to shoot armed suspects, even if officers' lives are not at risk.

– Diplomatic turnaround –

Bolsonaro wants to cancel the "South-South" diplomacy of former President Lula and wants to establish a closer connection with the United States.

He will make his first trips abroad to Chile, the US and Israel – countries that "share our world view," said Lorenzoni.

Following the footsteps of President Donald Trump, whom he admires, Bolsonaro confirmed on Thursday that he would relocate the Brazilian embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem to defend the Palestinians and international consensus.

He was also pleased with the right-wing deputy Italian Prime Minister Matteo Salvini, who warmly congratulated him on his victory and asked him to extradite the "red terrorist" Cesare Battisti.

The left-wing ex-militant, convicted of murder in absentia in Italy, was given refuge under Lula in Brazil.

Bolsonaro's son Eduardo, a lawmaker, tweeted back to Salvini: "The gift is on its way."

– Testy Media Relations –

Bolsonaro was accused of attacking the independent media during his first days.

After the election, he declared his commitment to the free press. Then he immediately told Folha, the biggest Brazilian newspaper: "This paper is ready."

"As far as I'm concerned, media that behave disgracefully do not receive federal money (advertising)," he said, apparently angered by Folhas reports of alleged violations of the electoral bill law and the misuse of public funds.

International press freedom groups condemned his statements.

– Break the mold –

Bolsonaro's communication strategy – or lack thereof – is like no other president in Brazilian history.

He gave three separate victory speeches on Sunday evening: twice on Facebook and once on television after praying with his wife in front of the camera.

He has made some of his most important political announcements in social media.

Other important announcements were made by advisers in front of his house or by the wealthy financier Paulo Marinho, the preferred meeting place for his inner circle.

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