RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — The board of directors of Brazil’s oil giant Petrobras elected on Thursday José Mauro Coelho as its new president – the third to take the lead of the state-run company in a little more than three years.
His appointment by Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro last week followed the dismissal of his predecessor, Gen. Joaquim Silva e Luna, a former defense minister. The general lost the government’s support after the company boosted fuel prices to pass some of the global oil increases to consumers.
Brazil’s government owns 50.26% of Petrobras, but Bolsonaro’s picks for presidents must be approved by the company’s board.
Coelho worked for 12 years at the state energy research agency, and later was chairman of the board at the state company that manages contracts for offshore pre-salt oil exploration and production. From 2020 until last October, he was secretary for petroleum, natural gas and biofuels at the mining and energy ministry.
Market observers and analysts see Coelho’s appointment for a one-year term as a sign that Petrobras will maintain the same international fuel price policy, resisting political pressure to lower gasoline and diesel prices in an election year.
“It is a suitable profile for the position,” said Gesner de Oliveira, an economist and professor at the Fundação Getulio Vargas university in Sao Paulo. “But these changes generate concern because they are the result of government interference in the company.”
This is the second time since he assumed office in 2019 that Bolsonaro, who is running for reelection in October, has made changes at the top of Petrobras because of rising fuel prices.
Before Silva e Luna, Roberto Castello Brancohad also been encouraged to make adjustments to the firm’s policy, but since 2016, Petrobras’ gasoline and diesel prices have been pegged to international oil prices.