Friday, November 2, 2018

Bolsonaro picks Moro for his cabinet (Nov. 2, 2018)

Brazilian president-elect Jair Bolsonaro tapped Sérgio Moro to  be his justice and public security minister. The choice of the crusading anti-corruption judge responsible for jailing popular former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva caused wave yesterday, reports the Guardian.

The move signals a ramping up of the country's battle against graft, in keeping with voter concerns, but could fuel criticisms of the judiciary, reports the Wall Street Journal.

Gleisi Hoffman, the president of Lula’s Workers’ party (PT), denounced what she called "the fraud of the century". "Judge Sérgio Moro will be Minister of Justice in Jair Bolsonaro’s Government, who has only got elected because Lula was unfairly convicted and prevented from participating in the elections," she tweeted.

Moro accepted the offer, backtracking on promises to stay out of politics. It is a poor choice according to several analysts who said it would taint the massive Operation Car Wash investigation into widespread graft in politics and potentially weaken trust in the judiciary.

The position will be reconfigured to oversee efforts to fight corruption and organized crime, reports the New York Times, and Moro said the job presented him with a unique opportunity to “consolidate and broaden” Brazil’s movement to stamp out corruption. 


Bolsonaro promised to move the country's Israel embassy to Jerusalem. Bolsonaro tweeted the ratification of his campaign promise, which would make Brazil the largest country to follow the controversial U.S. move, reports AFP

The U.S. officially transferred its embassy in May, and was followed by Guatemala and Paraguay. (There has been considerable speculation regarding how the Guatemalan government's move curried U.S. favor for the Morales administration's onslaught against the CICIG. In the meantime Paraguay's new government has announced that it will backtrack the Jerusalem move.)

Bolsonaro intends to prioritize a visit to Israel, along with the United States and Chile -- countries that "share our worldview," according to the president-elect's future for chief of staff, Onyx Lorenzoni.

Though Brazil and Israel have historically had good relations, in recent years the two have fallen out over Brazilian criticism of Israel's use of force in the Gaza strip, notes the Washington Post.

Bolsonaro briefs
  • Voters chose Bolsonaro largely in rejection of the political status quo, it's less clear how his program of economic liberalism and social conservatism will actually play out, argues the Economist. And there are signs of important ideological schisms within his incoming administration.
  • Bolsonaro's expected minister of defense, retired army general Augusto Heleno, said that snipers should be deployed to take down armed criminal suspects. His statements came in response to criticisms against Rio de Janeiro governor-elect Wilson Witzel's plan to deploy police snipers to shoot suspects even if officers’ lives are not in danger. (AFP)
  • Bolsonaro's admiration of Brazil's military dictatorship risks banalizing its horrific legacy of torture and political persecution. A New York Times op-ed by writer Marcelo Paiva revisits that dark chapter.
  • Catalina Ruiz-Navarro writes about the challenges for feminism posed by Bolsonaro's rise, specifically the strengthening of gender-ideology. The column in El Espectador extensively quotes Brazilian feminist Manoela Miklos, who calls for resistance against the anti-feminist backlash.
  • This election cycle could be the death knell of Brazil's centrist PSDB party, leaving an opening for the creation of a new reform centrist movement, according to the Economist.
News Briefs

More "diplomacy"
  • U.S. national security advisor John Bolton welcomed Bolsonaro's election. He painted a favorable picture of newly elected right-wing governments in Colombia and Brazil, and contrasted them with what he called a "troika of tyranny": Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua. (Guardian)
  • Speaking in Miami, Bolton announced the addition of more than two dozen entities owned or controlled by the Cuban military and intelligence services to a Washington sanctions list. And the White House announced new sanctions against Venezuela, targeting the crisis-wracked country's gold industry. (Wall Street Journal and Reuters)
  • Bolsonaro could put Brazil on a diplomatic collision course with Mexico, under the incoming government of Andrés Manuel López Obrador, argues Shannon K O'Neil in Bloomberg.
  • Chile will join China's Belt and Road initiative. (Reuters)
  • "Think of China as a giant sub-prime lender in Latin America," argues the Economist.
More from Brazil
  • Brazilian federal authorities said they are investigating an attempt to obstruct the state investigation into Rio de Janeiro councillor Marielle Franco's assassination earlier this year. (Reuters)
  • An investigation by the Guatemalan public ministry and the CICIG into extrajudicial executions and torture of inmates between 2004 and 2007 implicated Kamilo Rivera, the current administration's deputy minister of the interior and link with the Policía Nacional Civil (PNC). The attorney general's office accused Rivera of forming death squads acting within the government, and he has now gone missing, reports InSight Crime. (See Monday's and Tuesday's briefs.)
  • Two migrant caravans are currently wending their way through Mexico. Though authorities have not directly targeted the migrants, federal police were stopping migrants from hitching rides on freight trucks, citing safety concerns, reports the Associated Press.
  • The slow trek north is a journey of epic proportions, and many families with young children are on foot -- it's harder for them to hitch rides and they are more vulnerable to disease and dangers along the way, reports the Guardian. Even the strongest migrants are falling prey to the significant physical toll of the walk, reports the Washington Post.
  • Though the Central American migrants traveling by caravan are the current center of media attention, the Venezuelan exodus is the main migration phenomenon affecting the region and stretching the budgets and resources of both host and passageway countries, according to Andrew Selee, president of the Migration Policy Institute. (Americas Quarterly Deep South podcast)
  • Venezuelan leftist-icon Teodoro Petkoff died at age 86. The New York Times describes his six-decade political trajectory as cinematic, ranging from armed Marxist guerrilla to critic of Hugo Chávez. In a New York Times Español op-ed Jorge Castañeda celebrates Petkoff's legacy, while in another Hugo Prieto laments the loss of "a guerrilla fighter of freedom, turned staunch defender of democracy, pluralism and consensus ..."
  • The arrest of Peruvian opposition leader Keiko Fujimori on allegations of corruption throws the Popular Force party into a somewhat familiar crisis, reports Reuters. (See yesterday's briefs.)
  • Next month voters in Grenada and Antigua & Barbuda will vote whether to adopt the Caribbean Court of Justice as their supreme court, displacing the British Privy Council. (Economist)
  • The World Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank are providing Argentina with three loans totaling more than $1.8 billion, reports the Associated Press.
  • Mexico's incoming government will not use international reserves to finance public spending and investment, promised incoming finance minister Carlos Urzua. (Reuters)
  • A Mexican dance troupe seeks to smash LGBT barriers. (Reuters)
Did I miss something, get something wrong, or do you have a different take? Let me know ... Latin America Daily Briefing


  1. The PSDB is not a centrist party in Brazil, the PSDB was the country's traditional center-right party despite the name. I've seen this twice now in two separate briefings. Geraldo Alckmin, Aécio Neves, José Serra and Fernando Henrique Cardoso were all very traditional center right conservatives without the current populist, nationalist bent of today's Bolsonaro. Some recently elected PSDB officials have even openly embraced Bolsonaro such as João Doria. Though this is a minor distinction and does not invalidate the economist's excellent argument. It is also an important one.

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