Lula’s scolding of ministers expands Rui Costa’s powers in the Civil House
President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (PT) held a meeting this week with 19 of the 37 ministers where he gave a message about the disclosure of government programs without the approval of the Planalto Palace. The “scolding”, according to members of the Planalto, was a way for the PT to try to end the noise within the government and expand the influence of the Minister of the Civil House, Rui Costa, over the other portfolios of the Esplanada.
This is the second time that Lula has scolded his ministers for disclosing government programs without his consent. In January, during the first ministerial meeting, the PT had already indicated that advertisements, regardless of the area, should have the approval of the Civil House, especially when there was a change in some type of government policy.
“It is important that no minister or minister publicly announce any public policy without having been agreed with the Civil House, which is who manages to make the proposal come from the government. We do not want proposals from ministers. All proposals from ministers must be transformed into government proposals. And it will only be transformed into a government proposal when everyone knows what will be decided,” said Lula.
This time, Lula’s “message” was seen as a hint to the Minister of Ports and Airports, Márcio França, who last week had announced “Fly, Brazil”. The program that promises to offer tickets of up to R$ 200 to the public formed by retirees, civil servants and students had not yet been evaluated by members of the Civil House.
“Whatever genius anyone may have, it is important that, before announcing it, [a autoridade] hold a meeting with the Civil House, so that the Civil House discusses with the Presidency of the Republic and we can call the author of the genius and announce it publicly, as if it were something of the government”, completed the petista.
Rui Costa expands powers over Lula government program decisions
The assessment of Planalto members is that Lula’s message expands the influence that Rui Costa will exercise in the PT government. The minister, who is a former governor of Bahia, is currently seen as one of the most important names in the government and was chosen to head the Civil House for having a leadership profile even within the PT.
According to PT leaders, Costa plays the same role in the current administration that the “almighty José Dirceu” played at the beginning of Lula’s first government. Dirceu left office in 2005 amid the monthly allowance scandal revealed by then deputy Roberto Jefferson (PTB-RJ).
Since the beginning of the new government, the minister has expanded his powers over appointments and signed a norm to determine that all appointments in ministries must go through the Civil House. Before, the Civil House endorsed the choices for the second echelon, but lower posts were under the autonomy of the respective ministers.
Recently, during a government event, Lula even said that the Minister of the Civil House was his “Dilma in pants”. The former president commanded the Civil House between 2005 and 2010. “I met a guy for the Civil House who said: ‘It’s my Dilma in pants’ […] If he sees that someone is saying what they shouldn’t say, he says: ‘Wait a minute, let’s talk again’. So I am very calm”, said Lula.
Questioned by journalists about who would be the minister targeted by Lula’s “scolding” during the last ministerial meeting, the head of the Civil House declined to speak. “It’s up to your creativity. He didn’t mention [os casos específicos]’ replied Costa.
Despite this, the minister stated that he had not spoken with Márcio França about the airline ticket program. “We still haven’t received the details of this program, and there will still be time to hold this meeting”, guaranteed the minister.
Lula’s message also reached other ministers from the Esplanada dos Ministérios
After the ministerial meeting, Minister Márcio França minimized the tensions and said that Lula was correct in scolding members of the first echelon. The minister even called the Civil House to explain the program, but the assessment of Lula’s allies is that the measure needs, for example, an alignment with the Ministry of Tourism, commanded by Daniela Carneiro.
At the same time, Planalto members claim that Lula’s scolding was also directed at the Minister of the Social Communication Secretariat, Paulo Pimenta, who even republished a post from the “Voa, Brasil!” program. With Lula’s irritation, Pimenta was instructed by the Civil House to delete the publication.
In addition to airline tickets, other announcements made by the ministers, such as about a counter-reform of the social security and the end of the birthday withdrawal in the FGTS, also caused discomfort in the Lula government. In the first week of government, in January, the Minister of Social Security, Carlos Lupi, highlighted the creation of a tripartite commission to evaluate the revision of the Social Security reform, a kind of “anti-reform” approved in 2019 by then-President Jair Bolsonaro (PL).
At the time, Rui Costa spoke about the case and said that there was no proposal being analyzed or considered to change the retirement and pension rules. Days later, the Minister of Labor, Luiz Marinho, also advanced proposals that had not yet been analyzed by the responsible areas of the government. At that moment, Marinho stated that the government intended to end the FGTS anniversary withdrawal.
The repercussion, however, was negative and forced the minister to withdraw from the pronouncement and say that there would be a “wide debate” with the Board of Trustees of the FGTS and with the trade union centrals on the subject. At the beginning of the month, the minister returned to the subject and emphasized that the looting “has to end”.