Brazilian President Sacks a Lula Man and Gets a New Lula Man as Defense Minister

New Brazilian Defense minister Celso Amorim Brazil’s Defense minister Nelson Jobim (now former minister) was in Tabatinga in the state of Amazonas on the border with Colombia at work when Palácio do Planalto (Brazil’s White House) announced at about 8 pm that he had lost his job.

Jobim was in the company of vice president Michel Temer, the minister of Justice José Eduardo Cardozo and the minister of Strategic Affairs Moreira Franco, for the launch of the Border Security program. In his last act as minister he had earlier signed a security agreement with Colombian authorities.

Shortly after the announcement, the head of the Presidential Communication Secretariat, Helena Chagas, said that Jobim had left Amazonas and was on his way back to Brasilia to meet president Dilma Rousseff. Chagas also reported that the new minister of Defense would be Celso Amorim, the former minister of Foreign Relations in the Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva administration.

Ambitious, controversial and outspoken, Nelson Jobim has been a politician (as a leader of the PMDB when the 1988 Constitution was drawn up he was a first term deputy); a jurist (he was a member of the Supreme Court where he served as Chief Justice for two years (2004-06); the position rotates in Brazil) and also a cabinet member (he was minister of Justice during the Fernando Henrique Cardoso administration, 1995-97). He has also been mentioned as a candidate for the presidency or maybe vice presidency.

But four years ago Lula made him minister of Defense at a very difficult moment in aviation, which is run by the military in Brazil. There had been two terrible airplane accidents, the situation was chaotic in the airports and there was the beginning of a mutiny in the ranks of air traffic controllers, who are Air Force enlisted men in Brazil.

Jobim is credited with improving a situation that remains enormously deficient. However, his triumph at the ministry of Defense was in maintaining good relations with the military high command – never easy for a civilian.

He visited Haiti where Brazil commands the United Nations stability force in combat fatigues. Jobim also took the general’s side in the dispute regarding the Amnesty Law and punishment for violent acts perpetrated by “agents of the state” (military personnel) during the dictatorship (1964-85).

Last year he moved decisively against the National Human Rights Plan (PNDH-3) that would have revoked the Amnesty law, tried soldiers for human rights violations and installed a Truth Commission. After Jobim threatened to resign, Lula sent the PNHD-3 back to the drawing board for changes in the text.

Jobim had a close relationship with president Lula, something he did not have with Dilma Rousseff. With big plans to modernize Brazil’s armed forces, he also had a budget that was in tatters after recent cuts.

However, recently, Jobim, the military commander, has been acting like a loose cannonball. In June, speaking at a ceremony honoring the 80th birthday of FHC, Jobim cited the Brazilian playwright, Nelson Rodrigues, “Nowadays idiots have no modesty.”

The phrase was considered a veiled criticism of the PT administration. Last week, on a TV talk show, Jobim revealed that in last year’s presidential elections he voted for José Serra, the opposition candidate who ran with Dilma Rousseff, his chief, who ended up winning the election.

On Wednesday, before he traveled to the Amazon, Jobim met briefly with president Rousseff and more or less apologized for that remark. But the Jobim deed that really ruffled feathers in Brasília was an interview in the monthly magazine, Piauí, in which the minister took some potshots at colleagues in the Dilma Rousseff cabinet .

In the interview, Jobim called the new minister of Institutional Relations, Ideli Salvatti, “very weak” (her job is liaison with politicians). Jobim also said that the new Chief of Staff, Gleisi Hoffman, “did not know Brasília.”

In the same interview he said that when president Dilma asked him if an assistant he wanted would be useful he responded that he told her that he was the person to decide that.

The Piauí interview hits the newsstands this Friday, August 5, but Dilma got an advance copy yesterday and after reading the whole interview is reported to have said angrily, “This is all I need,” and decided he had to go. One of the reasons the president was angry was that Jobim did not even mention the interview when they spoke before he left for Tabatinga.

The Dilma Rousseff administration has now been in power for seven months and Jobim is the third minister to leave – all of them holdovers from the Lula era. The first to go was Antonio Palocci, the Chief of Staff, who had just returned to a top post in government after having been forced to resign in March 2006, due to shadowy behavior.

Palocci resigned again on June 7, 2011, for suspected influence traffic. He was followed, last month, by the minister of Transportation, Alfredo Nascimento, who was accused of corruption.

The new minister of Defense, Celso Amorim, is a diplomat. He was head of the Brazilian mission to the United Nations in 1995. In 1999, he was head of the Brazilian office at the World Trade Organization. In 2001, he was Brazilian ambassador to the United Kingdom.

He served as minister of Foreign Relations from 2003 to 2010.

Jobim, 65, took the Defense post in 2007 under then-president Lula and oversaw a still-pending multi-billion tender for 36 new fighter jets.

“Jobim presented his resignation to President (Dilma) Rousseff on Thursday night at the president’s office and she accepted,” Communications Minister Helena Chagas told reporters.

Amorim, 69, was a key player in Lula’s foreign policy successes. He is best known for efforts to improve ties among developing nations, tightening relations with Latin American countries, and for helping organize the BRICS nations (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa). Foreign Policy magazine has called Amorim the “world’s best foreign minister.”

The BRICS group has emerged as a possible counter-force in international affairs to Western nations and the global financial crisis has enhanced its clout.

Leaders from all five countries, which account for 40% of the world’s population, met last at a summit in April and they have coordinated on issues from climate change to trade and the war in Libya.

Earlier Thursday, Jobim issued a statement denying the quotes from the Piauí interview but a government source said that President Rousseff considered his declaration “beyond what is reasonable.”

Over the past year, Brazil has repeatedly delayed making a decision on the jet fighter tender, estimated between 4 to 7 billion dollars and pitting the US Boeing F/A-18 Super Hornet against France’s Rafale by Dassault and Sweden’s Gripen NG by Saab.

In February, Jobim announced that Brazil would make no decision in the “short term” on the jet fighter tender due to budget cuts.


  • Show Comments (3)

  • jan z. volens

    Some “readers” will never get it: 2011 Brazil’s Left and Right are united on geopolitical issues.
    Today, the Right and the Left in Brazil are united on geopolitical issues – no matter what their conflicts may have been 1964-85 during the Military Dictatorship, and with each side maintaining its traditional socio-economic ideology: Left and Right differ domestically on MST, agrarian reform, amnesty law. But Left and Right agree on geopolitical defense against USA and its NATO Partners (rejection of NATO expansion into the South Atlantic, rejection of U.S. bases in South America), against USA&NATO NGOs waging a propaganda war, in Brazil and worldwide – against Brazil’s development projects (PAC, Belo Monte), and “Farms here forests there” (the U.S. scheme to shut down Brazil’s farm exports, see Internet: Farms here forests there),both the Left and the Right agree on the new “Codico Forestal” – which the USA&NATO NGOs try to sabotage. Notice both Fregapani and Lerrer-Rosenfield – both of the Right, have repeatedly published a defense of the Communist in Congress – Aldo Rebelo (check “Arco de Fronteiras” and Lerrer-Rosenfield on net.) And both those on the Right and the Left, consider CIMI, operated by a Catholic bishop from Austria – Erwin Krautler, as the most dangerous geopolitical operation in Brazil to divide the national ethnic cohesion, by involving the USA, Britain, Germany, the Vatican in issues between the Federal Gornment in Brazil and indigenous ethnicities. The Bishop spent the past 40+ in Brazil attempting to paralyse the social and development programs of all governments in Brazil and to ignite ethnic tensions. And both Left and Right agree on Marina da Silva representing the adversaries of Brazil in USA and EU. Obviously, there are many conditions in Brazil which need continous change and improvement: ONLY BRAZILIANS IN BRAZIL DECIDE ON THEIR OWN NATIONAL POLICIES – NOT WASHINGTON, LONDON OR THE VATICAN! And on that both the Left and the Right in Brazil agree in 2011!

  • ..

    jan z. volens
    [quote]although figures like the retired Augusto Heleno and Gelio Fregapani are today completely “on board” with the geopolitical- geostrategic direction of Brazil as independent geopolitical actor. [/quote]

    As usual, you are full of hot air. Must be one of those “new immigrants” to Brasil, completely clueless of the country & its history.:sad:

  • jan z. volens

    Old and new Defense Minister both nationalists and for Brazil’s geopolitical independence.
    When during the Honduras coup crisis, the U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice (widely described as “difficult”) dragged her feet on relaying Brazil’s initiative to the Security Council, Celso Amorim insisted sternly that she comply. It was featured in Brazil’s headline as “bate boca”. When Amorim wanted to make the point, that Brazil reserves its right to enrich uranium – Lula and Turkey’s Dovagtulo went to Iran to get Teheran some breathing space to normalize its own uranium enrichement program. This ocurred contrary to U.S. “consent”! – After Brazil had advised Washington, that Brazil has “reservations” against an U.S. inititiave to “cut the Atlantic-line” – meaning the expansion of NATO into the South Atlantic (read: U.S. 4th Fleet, and U.S. Southcom) – the German NATO General Klaus Naummann showed up at the German “Fundacao Adenauer” (of Germany’s conservative CDU Party) in Rio – and told Minister Jobim: “The U.S. needs Europe as partners for its role in the world!” – To this Minister Jobim replied in his direct and outspoken manner: “We are not partners of the U.S. for its role in the world! Only South Americans are responsible for the defense of our continent and we need a dissuasive force against threats from outside our region!” The Germans got the message loud and clear: No NATO expansion into the South Atlantic will be tolerated by Brazil! – Jobim, described as francophil (sympathetic to France) and Amorim both are believed to favour the long awaited purchase of 36 fighter aircraft – from France. Thus – in essence both Jobim and Amorim – although dissimilar – were effective, when necessary, to defend Brazil’s geopolitical independence. (Perhaps Brazil could learn from Turkey, where the military have just been dealt a reality shock and finally succumbed to civilian control, although figures like the retired Augusto Heleno and Gelio Fregapani are today completely “on board” with the geopolitical- geostrategic direction of Brazil as independent geopolitical actor. With other words: Brazil’s military is getting substantially weaned away from U.S. “advisors”…)

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