The board of Brazil’s state-run oil company Petrobras on Thursday named Jose Mauro Coelho as its third CEO in just over a year after President Jair Bolsonaro fired his predecessors in a stand-off over fuel prices.
Coelho was appointed for a one-year term, Petrobras announced in a statement.
He was the government’s choice to succeed Joaquim Silva e Luna, ousted by Bolsonaro last month after slightly more than a year in the post.
The far-right president said then that the petrol price — set by Petrobras but tied to international market movement — was “unaffordable” and amounted to a “crime” against Brazilians.
Silva e Luna’s predecessor Roberto Castello Branco was fired by Bolsonaro in February 2021 for similar reasons.
Bolsonaro, who is seeking reelection in October, is widely blamed by voters for double-digit inflation, polls show, on the back of skyrocketing global and local fuel prices.
Fuel prices in Brazil have risen by nearly 28 percent in the year to March, even as the economy recovers from the fallout of the coronavirus pandemic.
Russia’s war in Ukraine has led to a sharp rise in crude prices in recent weeks, adding to the pressure.
‘Guarantee of supply
Bolsonaro’s initial pick for Petrobras CEO, economist Adriano Pires, withdrew his name from the race last week due to a possible conflict of interest over his other role as head of an energy consulting firm.
Another nominee of Bolsonaro, Rodolfo Landim, withdrew to concentrate his attention on the Flamengo football club, of which he is president.
Several other possible candidates had declined the job, according to the Brazilian press.
The government then picked Coelho, who was the government secretary of petroleum, natural gas and biofuels in 2020 and 2021.
With a degree in industrial chemistry, he enters the job with 25 years of experience in the energy sector.
He has served since 2020 as chairman of the board of the PPSA oil and gas company linked to the ministry of mines and energy.
Coelho said Thursday that “adhering to market prices is a necessary condition for the creation of a competitive business environment, attracting investment… and is a guarantee of supply”.
This in turn, he added, “leads to increased competition with benefits for the Brazilian consumer”.
Alex Agostini, chief economist at Austin Rating, said no major changes were expected under Coelho in favor or “greater intervention” in fuel pricing.
By the close of trading Thursday, Petrobras shares ended 0.39 percent higher on the Sao Paulo stock exchange.