Energy Minister Albuquerque Resigns

Move comes in wake of sky-rocketing fuel prices on the part of the federally-controlled Petrobras oil company that Pres. Bolsonaro has roundly criticized in recent weeks

President Jair Bolsonaro announced the change in command of the Ministry of Mines and Energy (MME) in the early hours of Wednesday (May 11) through a notice in the federal gazette.

It came amidst growing dissatisfaction of truck drivers by Petrobras’ 8.87% readjustment in the price of diesel fuel.

According to a statement published by the MME, “former Minister Bento Albuquerque participates that the decision to leave the Ministry of Mines and Energy was of a personal nature and taken in a meeting between him and the President in a consensual manner.”

In his place, the president chose Alfredo Sachsida, who was part of Economy Minister Paulo Guedes’ team as a special advisor to the Ministry of Economy. The nomination was published in the DOU of this Wednesday (11).

Sachsida has a Bachelor’s degree in Law and a Master’s and PhD in Economics from the University of Brasília (UnB). Before joining the Ministry of Economy, he was a researcher at Ipea between 1997 and 2018. In his LinkedIn profile, the newly appointed minister presents himself as a loyal follower of Economy Minister Paulo Guedes’ liberal primer. On one occasion, he declared that the minister was “the best that has ever passed through the Ministry of Economy in all of Brazilian history.”

The exoneration was decided late Tuesday night and quickly published in this Wednesday’s edition of the Diário Oficial da União (DOU), the federal gazette.

The change was made after recent strong criticism from the president about the pricing policy of Petrobras, the powerful state-owned oil company linked to the portfolio.

According to local media reports, on Twitter, Sachsida posted a message of thanks to Bolsonaro, to Guedes, Minister of Economy, and to Albuquerque.

“I thank President Jair Bolsonaro for his trust, Minister Guedes for his support, and Minister Bento for his work on behalf of the country. With a lot of work and dedication I hope to be up to this, which is the greatest professional challenge of my career. With the grace of God we will help

Bolsonaro cited Albuquerque and Petrobras president José Mauro Ferreira Coelho in a sharp complaint on May 5 about the price of diesel fuel:

“You can’t, Minister Bento Albuquerque and Mr. José Mauro, from Petrobras, you can’t increase the price of diesel. I am not appealing, I am making a statement taking into account the abusive profit that you have. You can’t break Brazil. It is an appeal now: Petrobras, don’t break Brazil, don’t increase the price of oil. I cannot intervene. You have profit, you have fat and you have the social role of Petrobras defined in the Constitution,” he said.

According to the O Globo newspaper in Rio de Janeiro, the resignation of Albuquerque took the top echelon of Petrobras by surprise. Board members and directors debated how to react to possible new interference in the company and possible changes in the pricing policy. Part of the government was also taken by surprise, the newspaper reported.

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