An expletive-ridden video showing the Brazilian president, Jair Bolsonaro, expressing frustration at his inability to get information from police and vowing to change cabinet ministers if needed to protect his family has been released at the order of a supreme court justice in a new blow to the far-right president.
The two-hour video of a cabinet meeting, with portions redacted, was released as part of an inquiry into allegations that the president was trying to illegally interfere in a criminal investigation of his son, a claim made by the former justice minister Sergio Moro when he resigned last month.
The former minister told investigators that Bolsonaro openly demanded he make changes in key federal police positions, including the head of the agency as a whole. Moro resigned after Bolsonaro fired the federal police director-general without consulting him.
Bolsonaro has denied inappropriate pressure and insisted his quotes were misinterpreted.
The video shows the president complaining: “I already tried to change our security in Rio de Janeiro and I couldn’t. That is over. I’m not going to wait for [the federal police] to fuck my family and friends just for shits and giggles.”
Bolsonaro has insisted that he was referring to the head of his security detail, though he had, in fact, successfully changed that position recently. Moro said he was alluding to the head of police operations in Rio, who presumably might have been involved into investigations into the president’s sons, who live there.
At another point, the president also complains about his inability to get information from the police or other agencies.
“You can’t work like that. It’s difficult. That’s why I will interfere. Period,” he said.
Bolsonaro’s popularity has been sagging in part due to the resignation of Moro, widely seen as an anti-corruption crusader, and to his attempts to minimize the coronavirus pandemic, which has now killed more than 20,000 Brazilians and at an increasing pace.
The released footage also shows environment minister Ricardo Salles calling on the government to push through further deregulation of environmental policy while people are distracted by the coronavirus pandemic. “We need to make an effort while we are in this calm moment in terms of press coverage, because they are only talking about Covid, and push through and change all the rules and simplify norms,” Salles says in the video.
Deforestation hit an 11-year high last year and has increased 55% in the first four months of the year, compared with a year ago, with environmental groups blaming Bolsonaro’s policies.
Bolsonaro has called for development of the Amazon, saying it is necessary to lift people out of poverty and that he is being unfairly demonized by the media.
Asked to respond to the video, the Environment Ministry issued a comment from Salles: “I have always defended de-bureaucratization and simplifying norms, in all areas, with good sense and all within the law. The tangle of irrational laws hinders investments, the generation of jobs and, therefore, sustainable development in Brazil.”
In the video Salles complained about legal challenges to proposed environmental rule changes, that the government needed legal “artillery” to defend the changes and should bypass Congress.
“We don’t need Congress. Because things that need Congress, with the mess that is there, we are not going to get passed.”
Greenpeace Brasil spokeswoman Luiza Lima said in a statement that “Salles believes that people dying in line at hospitals is a good opportunity to move forward on his anti-environmental project.”