BRASILIA (Reuters) - Brazil’s right-wing president, Jair Bolsonaro, plans to push ahead with the appointment of his son Eduardo for ambassador to the United States despite accusations of nepotism and mounting resistance in his country’s Congress.
The tussle with the Senate over his son’s appointment risks further isolating the firebrand president within Congress, where other leaders have taken up the momentum in passing legislation.
With polls suggesting he might lack the required votes for approval by the Senate, Bolsonaro said on Tuesday he could pull the nomination, telling reporters: “I’m not going to subject my son to failure.”
But by Wednesday, the former army captain had U-turned, saying there would be no retreat and Eduardo’s name will be presented next month to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee for approval before the full 81-seat chamber.
Rejection would be a major setback.
“It would certainly be considered a defeat and contribute to reinforcing the supremacy of Congress vis-à-vis Bolsonaro,” said David Fleischer, politics professor emeritus at the University of Brasilia. “He’s a very impulsive president and does not think through the consequences of certain decisions or policies.”
A survey of senators by the Estado de S.Paulo newspaper published on Monday showed he was currently short of the simple-majority of 41 votes needed for approval.
A poll of 1,500 voters by Quaest Consultoria e Pesquisa showed even among Bolsonaro supporters, 45% disagree with the son’s appointment for envoy in Washington. Among all voters, 72% oppose the nomination.
An admirer of U.S. President Donald Trump and his social and environmental views, Bolsonaro has defended the appointment, saying his son is a friend of Trump’s family which would help improve relations between the two nations.
Eduardo, 35, accompanied his father on a visit to the White House wearing a “Trump 2020” cap to the Oval office meeting.
He currently chairs the Foreign Relations Committee in Brazil’s lower house and cited a stint “frying hamburgers” at a fast food joint in the U.S. state of Maine while an exchange student as among his international experience for the job.
His opponents sought to block the nomination by introducing a bill in Congress against nepotism within public administration, but it has not yet been voted on. Even some of Bolsonaro’s allies in Congress see the choice as an unprecedented affront to Brazil’s experienced diplomatic corps.
Brazilian federal prosecutors filed a court injunction last week seeking to bar the appointment due to his lack of diplomatic experience. The Supreme Court denied it.
Reporting by Anthony Boadle in Brasilia; Editing by Matthew Lewis