Jair Bolsonaro telegraphed the resignation of the Minister of Mines and Energy. Last week, the president named Admiral Bento Albuquerque and the head of Petrobras, José Mauro Ferreira Coelho, by name, and sent a message, shouting: “You can’t raise the price of diesel! finding”.
Four days after the ultimatum, the state-owned company announced another hike in fuel prices. After two more days, the minister lost his position.
The president is looking for an outlet for the political damage caused by the increases. In the absence of an efficient plan for the sector, Bolsonaro has already fired two presidents of Petrobras and, now, the minister of the area. At this rate, it remains to change the gas station attendants, to see if prices fall.
Bolsonaro’s moves convey a certain desperation. The government’s main fuel measure, the federal tax cut, had limited effect on the pumps. The same happened with less orthodox maneuvers, such as pressure on gas station owners and even the idea that residents should rent trucks to distribute gas cylinders in their communities.
Now, the president reinforces the attacks on Petrobras itself and simulates indignation with the company’s profits. Between accusations of “rape” and warnings that the state-owned company would break the country, no consistent project was heard from Bolsonaro for a new fuel price policy.
Instead of launching a program with uncertain results five months before the election, the president is betting on cosmetic and rhetorical advances. The government is trying to cushion the political impact of an inflation that is galloping around 12% and to hold back the mood of an electorate that is increasingly sensitive to price changes.
Even if Bolsonaro’s plan A is not to win at the polls, the president still needs to maintain popularity and reach the vote as a competitive candidate. He knows that a crushing defeat would eliminate support for any kind of rupture.
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