Brazil’s president-elect picked Sergio Moro, an anti-corruption judge to be justice minister, a signal the nation will step up its battle against graft, but fueling criticism of the judiciary from opponents. The WSJ reports:
The appointment of the widely-respected judge as minister is considered by legal experts to be a stamp of approval for the future government of Mr. Bolsonaro, who swept to victory Sunday with his promise to restore law and order.
But the move has also fueled criticism of partisanship in the country’s vast Car Wash corruption investigation that Mr. Moro helped lead, adding weight to accusations by the leftist Workers’ Party that the operation was part of a soft coup by the right to seize power.
As part of the Car Wash probe, Mr. Moro sentenced the party’s founder and former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva to jail for corruption last year, leading to his disqualification from the election. Polls showed Mr. da Silva would have defeated Mr. Bolsonaro in Sunday’s presidential race if he had been allowed to run.
“It was a very smart move by the new government,” said Thomas Trebat, director of Columbia Global Centers at Columbia University. “There will be a certain skepticism about this but it was a sign, just at the right moment, that the judiciary will continue its fight against corruption.”
In addition to his pick of Moro, Bolsonaro has selected Paulo Guedes as the next finance minister. The FT’s Andres Schipani and Joe Leahy say Guedes could represent a “Pinochet,” moment for Brazil, writing:
Mr Bolsonaro, who won elections last Sunday, ending almost 15 years of leftwing rule, will take over a moribund economy burdened by a bloated public sector when he assumes office on January 1.
Chile’s late dictator General Augusto Pinochet came to power in Chile in 1973 after overthrowing socialist president Salvador Allende in a military coup, at a difficult time for the economy, when the country was suffering high inflation and fiscal deficits.
The Chilean dictator’s solution was a dose of Milton Friedman-style free market economics from University of Chicago-trained academics. Mr Bolsonaro is considering the same medicine in the form of Mr Guedes, who has a doctorate from Chicago and taught at the University of Chile in 1980 when Pinochet was in power.
“The Chicago boys saved Chile, fixed Chile, fixed the mess,” Mr Guedes told the Financial Times during a wide-ranging five-hour interview at his beachside office in Rio de Janeiro earlier this year.
If Mr Bolsonaro, known for his nostalgia for Brazil’s military dictatorship, represents for many voters an extreme but necessary solution to end the country’s long flirtation with the left, Mr Guedes is his counterpart in the world of economics and finance.
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Jeremy Jones, CFA
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