Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, Brazil’s former president, came out in full support of the latest cabinet reshuffle by his successor picked by himself, Dilma Rousseff, who just fired the minister of Defense Nelson Jobim following some derogatory remarks about the cabinet chief and the head of institutional relations.
“Even if Pelé isn’t in a good day, you have to change him,” said Lula in direct reference to Jobim but immediately praised the incoming official, former Foreign Affairs minister Celso Amorim, who apparently has stirred some concerns in the Brazilian Armed Forces.
“I think that when people analyze the intellectual competence and statesman character of Celso Amorim, we have very few so gifted in Brazil,” said Lula underlining that the naming of a Defense minister “is not a matter of debate for the Armed Forces”.
“I believe Celso is extremely capable politically and I’m sure he will give continuity to the extraordinary job that Minister Jobim was doing in Defense,” added the former president.
He insisted that it’s no business of the military, “whether they like it or not, who is named Defense minister. Let me be clear when the President names a person, that’s it. Dilma is the supreme commander of the Armed Forces, she named the minister, period. You don’t question the decision”.
The former president said he regretted the ousting of Nelson Jobim who remained as Defense chief under the government of Dilma Rousseff on his recommendation.
“The president did the right choice; I think what happened should have not happened. I really don’t know what happened with Minister Jobim who was highly qualified for the job. But it happened. Now the ship keeps sailing. As a good union leader would say, the struggle continues,” added Lula.
He further indicated that changing three cabinet ministers in seven months of government is not a problem. Cabinet chief Antonio Palocci and Transport minister Alfredo Nascimento had to leave on corruption suspicions revealed by the Brazilian press.
“No, sometimes you could have even more changes. It seems strange when ministers are out, but when election time comes, thirty ministers walk up to you saying they want out. It’s no surprise what happened,” insisted the former president.
Jobim exit had been brewing for some time. A former Justice and minister under both Lula and previously with Fernando Cardoso, Jobim admitted having voted for the opposition candidate in 2010, José Serra and not Dilma Rousseff. He argued at the time he was a long time friend of Serra and had been best man at his marriage.
However in a magazine report he described Institutional Relations minister Ideli Salvatti as a “weakling” and accused cabinet chief Gleisi Hoffmann of not even “knowing her way around Brasília.”
Lula revealed that last Tuesday President Rousseff called on Jobim to talk about the issue and ask for explanations.
Communications minister Paulo Bernardo (and husband of Ms Hoffmann) who announced the latest reshuffle said that “as one of those strong character ‘gauchos’ from Rio Grande do Sul, maybe Jobim has a long entrenched dissatisfaction of not accepting orders from women”.
But this is the third time in the three consecutive cabinet change incidents that Lula has come out to support her successor, (whom he personally chose as presidential) candidate, in what could be interpreted as a weakness of Brazil’s president.
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