When Petrobras announced the third diesel readjustment this year, on May 11, President Jair Bolsonaro (PL) decided to reposition his government to deal with the state-owned company. At the time, the president fired the then Minister of Mines and Energy, Admiral Bento Albuquerque, and appointed Paulo Guedes, from Economy, to take care of the company.
A little over a month after the change, the first consequences of the “Guedes administration” began to appear: even more expensive fuel, chaos at the head of the state-owned company and increasing rumors of privatization of the company.
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Guedes increased his power at Petrobras, firstly, placing a subordinate in the Ministry of Mines and Energy (MME): Adolfo Sachsida, former secretary of Economic Policy at the Ministry of Economy, commanded by Guedes.
Sachsida arrived at the MME promising to start studies to privatize Petrobras. One day after taking office, he gave Guedes himself a formal request for the Investment Partnerships Program (PPI) to evaluate privatization. This request has already been accepted and the privatization of Petrobras is already under analysis.
On the 23rd, Guedes managed to get Caio Mário Paes Andrade, his special secretary for Debureaucratization, to be nominated for the presidency of Petrobras. Concerned about the effects of high gasoline and diesel prices on his reelection campaign, Bolsonaro wanted to show strength, announced the resignation of José Mauro Ferreira Coelho – a former Petrobras president sworn in just days before he was fired – and agreed to appoint another subordinate. de Guedes to the head of the state-owned company.
This move, however, created chaos in the company’s management. Andrade has no experience in the oil sector required by law for him to lead Petrobras. As soon as his name was announced, oil workers reported this problem.
The board of directors of Petrobras, then, decided to ask for a thorough analysis of Andrade’s curriculum before accepting him as president of the company. Publicly fired, Ferreira Coelho ended up earning a living at the head of the state-owned company.
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New rise creates crisis
With him still at the helm of the company, Petrobras announced another increase in diesel and gasoline, on Friday (17). The discharge was discussed by the company’s board of directors the day before it was announced. The government has a majority on the council. Bolsonaro, however, decided to blame Ferreira Coelho for the readjustment.
Bolsonaro threatened to articulate the creation of a CPI to investigate Ferreira Coelho and other members of the Petrobras leadership. His ally, the president of the Chamber of Deputies, Arthur Lira (PP-AL), demanded the resignation of Ferreira Coelho.
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He even made it through a weekend. This Monday (20), however, Petrobras announced that he had resigned from his position.
Ferreira Coelho’s resignation did not solve the problem that led to his resignation. The prices of gasoline and diesel sold by Petrobras have really gone up. In 2022 alone, they accumulate an increase of 31% and 68%, respectively.
Privatization as a goal
Economist Eric Gil Dantas, from the Social Observatory of Petroleum (OSP), stated that this was never Guedes’s concern. According to Dantas, the minister is a defender of Petrobras’ pricing policy, which has caused successive readjustments.
Dantas said that what Guedes really wants is to destabilize Petrobras in order to put it up for sale. He, by the way, has been successful.
“Behind this attack on Petrobras is Guedes’ plan to privatize Petrobras. This plan includes the appointment of Sachsida in the MME and Andrade in the presidency of the state-owned company”, explained Dantas. “In this, Paulo Guedes advanced.”
In an interview with Brazil de facto, Rosângela Buzanelli, an employee and member of the Petrobras board of directors, had already warned about the government’s orchestrated plan to sell the state-owned company. According to her, the initiative also includes the president of the Chamber, Lira, who defended the approval of a simplified bill for privatization.
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On Sunday, columnist Lauro Jardim, from O Globo, reported that Sachsida has the project to privatize Petrobras practically ready. He would just wait for a signal from President Bolsonaro to send it to Congress.
According to Jardim, Sachsida sees a favorable political moment for the discussion of the sale of control of Petrobras precisely because of the increase in fuel prices, whose price is ultimately controlled by the government.
The general coordinator of the Unique Federation of Oil Workers (FUP), Deyvid Bacelar, reaffirmed the responsibility of the government and Bolsonaro for the values of gasoline, diesel and cooking gas. According to him, the price of these products has risen because the government keeps them linked to the cost of oil abroad, maintaining the so-called import parity price (PPI).
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“If Bolsonaro had wanted to, he would have already changed the harmful policy of the PPI. He had more than three years for that. The PPI is not law, it can be abolished with the guidance of the President of the Republic, in the same way as it was created in October 2016, in the Michel Temer government,” he said.
Bacelar also sees Guedes and Bolsonaro articulated to destroy Petrobras’ reputation. “Successive changes of president and board of the state-owned company are part of the same strategy in search of destroying the company’s image,” he said.
Editing: Nicolau Soares