Brazil's Bolsonaro names general as chief of staff

2 min

Brasília (AFP)

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro named an army general Thursday as his new chief of staff, a move seen as strengthening the military's power in the far-right leader's government.

Bolsonaro, himself a former army captain, announced on Twitter that active-duty General Walter Souza Braga Netto would take over the top post in his cabinet.

The general, 62, is known for leading a military takeover of security in Rio de Janeiro in 2018, the federal government's bid to crack down on a wave of violent crime.

He replaces longtime Bolsonaro ally Onyx Lorenzoni, a civilian, who was shifted to head the ministry that oversees federal welfare programs.

The move brings the number of military ministers in Bolsonaro's administration to nine out of 22. He also has a general for a vice president, and other military officers in a series of top posts.

The president's chief of staff is one of the most powerful posts in Brazilian politics.

Yet Bolsonaro, who took office in January 2019, had recently stripped Lorenzoni of several key duties, perhaps in a sign of frustration at the slow pace of change.

Commentators read the cabinet shuffle as a move by Bolsonaro to double down on the military's role in his government.

The self-styled outsider, who has vowed not to engage in Brasilia's traditional political horse-trading, has relied on military men to marshal his agenda, which includes free-market economic reforms and opening up the Amazon rainforest to farming and mining.

"The main contours of the Bolsonaro administration will probably remain unchanged -- with a liberal economic team to drive policy, a strong and well-resourced military to organize the bureaucracy, and a right-wing ideological group to mobilize the base," the consultancy Eurasia Group said in a note.