“Retreat”, Bolsonaro ordered Petrobras to stop readjustment

President Jair Bolsonaro during ceremony at Planalto Palace 10/7/2021 REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino

photo: Reuters

“Retreat”. Thus, in short messages sent by WhatsApp, similar to a military command, President Jair Bolsonaro tried to overturn decisions at Petrobras on fuel increases even after the readjustment was announced, as the report found. Estadão/Broadcast. Other messages sent to the oil company’s first president in his government, Roberto Castello Branco, appealed to the persecutory nature: “So you want to overthrow me”, he fired.

To the current president, General Joaquim Silva e Luna, who is leaving the post, Bolsonaro said that Petrobras “has to be a company that does not make a very high profit”, which motivated an attempt by the State’s Communications advisor, Colonel Ricardo Bezerra, to remove the word “profit” so as not to look like a provocation to the president.

Bolsonaro’s behavior towards Petrobras since the beginning of his government has not changed. The formation of the new board of directors that endorses the new executive presidency – one year before the end of the term foreseen -, took place in the midst of presidential outbursts ranging from “I don’t whistle anything (at Petrobras) and it falls into my lap” to accusations of lack of professionalism.

In a recent interview with the program Live Wheelfrom TV Cultura, Castello Branco confirmed that he was the target of direct pressure from Bolsonaro, through messages, but their content had not been revealed.

Silva e Luna, on the other hand, was not so direct in relation to the president, but in recent interviews he said that the pressures were growing and, to Estadão/Broadcast, he made a statement loaded with symbolism: “It is easier to find blame than to solve it.”

“We needed someone more professional,” Bolsonaro said on Monday, referring to the management of Silva e Luna, which he himself had put in charge, claiming to be the person who would “clean up” the company. “You will see how Petrobras will improve,” he said, at the time, to the entourage of supporters who take turns at the Alvorada Palace gate.

Silva e Luna arrived at Petrobras making it clear that he would not interfere in the technical area. He used to say that the team knew what to do and could work in peace. To advise him, he took six other soldiers. The Communication area, a priority for Bolsonaro, afflicted by positive news, was in charge of Colonel Ricardo Bezerra, as well as the chief of staff was occupied by a military man of the same rank, Jorge Ricardo Áureo.


Obviously, the market considers the increase in net income, the distribution of dividends, the reduction of indebtedness as highly positive news. All this is happening in the company. But for the president, they are more of a hindrance. In his particular logic, he is convinced that this contributes negatively to his government.

Last year, after the release of the third quarter results, Bolsonaro unloaded his artillery, calling the company’s profit “absurd”. “(Petrobras) has to be a company that does not make very high profits”, he said, to the despair of Silva e Luna, who even confided to advisors that he didn’t know what else to do.

The madness reached its peak in the following disclosure. Faced with the president’s reaction, Colonel Bezerra considered not including the word profit in the 2021 result release, so as not to appear provocative. But, how to report the balance without mentioning the record profit of R$ 106.6 billion? Only the financial director, Rodrigo Araujo, managed to remove the advisor.

Silva e Luna was cornered by the pressure of Bolsonaro, who, in the last two months, started talking to him only through the minister of Mines and Energy, Bento Albuquerque. On the other hand, the executive board and the board of directors began to show signs of concern.

The mega-adjustment in March, 18.7% for gasoline and 24.9% for diesel, which remained unchanged for almost two months in the midst of the oil boom, and 16.1% for cooking gas, frozen for more than five months, was decided after a tense board meeting. Pressured by the Planalto, Silva e Luna still tried to hold prices a little longer, but the directors insisted on the impossibility, especially the Commercialization director, Cláudio Mastella. The councilors also defended the urgency of the readjustment, and the general had no alternative other than the one that ended up causing his dismissal.


For specialists, it would be up to the Securities and Exchange Commission (CVM), which regulates the capital market, to investigate whether Bolsonaro’s attitude characterized a violation of the Brazilian Corporate Law. “The Corporations Law determines that no shareholder votes or acts in defense of their own interests, but always in the best interests of the company”, says Mário Roberto Nogueira, partner at NHM Advogados. “The messages, however, make it clear that he (Bolsonaro) was not thinking about the population or the country’s economy, but simply about his personal interest (with the message ‘so, you want to bring me down’).”

André Neves, capital markets partner at BZCP, agrees that it is worth questioning whether the messages were in the best public interest, due to Petrobras’ statute, or electoral concerns. However, as the orders were not complied with, it would not be possible to question the Justice, according to both experts. “On the contrary, the administrators preserved their fiduciary duty towards the company, and not who appointed them to the positions”, says Neves.

Sought after, Palácio do Planalto and Petrobras did not manifest. (Collaborated by Cristiane Barbieri)

The information is from the newspaper. The State of São Paulo.