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Brazil“s next defense minister is a political veteran, respected by military


Brazilian defence minister nominee Jose Mucio smiles during a news conference at the transition government building in Brasilia, Brazil December 9, 2022. REUTERS/Adriano Machado

Jose Mucio, a veteran politician known for his negotiating skills, will be Brazil’s next defense minister, tasked with smoothing over relations between the country’s military and leftist President-elect Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.

Lula announced Mucio for the post at an event in Brasilia on Friday, where he named several other cabinet appointments, including Finance Minister Fernando Haddad.

“I couldn’t have anyone better prepared to look after defense than my friend Jose Mucio,” Lula said. “I’m sure he’ll handle the job and the Armed Forces will fulfill their main mission to take care of the country’s security.”

Outgoing far-right President Jair Bolsonaro gave the military a starring role in his government, with key ministries and thousands of jobs occupied by current and former soldiers – an alliance unlikely to be repeated under Lula when he takes office next month.

Ahead of the presidential election, Bolsonaro tried to get the military to publicly endorse him and his criticism of the electronic voting system that he claimed was open to fraud. There was even concern at the time of Lula’s Oct. 30 election victory that the Armed Forces might not ensure the peaceful handover of power.

But despite historically frosty ties with Lula, the military did not oppose his return to office, and they have not acknowledged the continued demonstrations outside army barracks by Bolsonaro supporters calling for a coup.

Two former army generals told Reuters that Mucio, a 74-year-old engineer, businessman and former head of the federal audit court (TCU), represented a smart choice by Lula, and said his nomination had been well received by the Armed Forces commanders.

“Mucio is a very balanced person, with great ability to solve problems and easy to work with,” said retired army General Carlos dos Santos Cruz, a former Bolsonaro cabinet minister.

“I have heard no rejection of Mucio in the Armed Forces. He has the qualities that the military expect of a defense minister,” said retired cavalry general Paulo Chagas.

Lula takes office on Jan. 1.

Mucio will be the first civilian defense minister since 2018.

He has belonged to different political parties and was government leader in the lower house during Lula’s earlier 2003-2010 presidency, in which he also held a cabinet position.

Lula appointed him in 2009 to the TCU federal audit court, which he presided over until his retirement in 2020.

“Mucio is a conciliator by nature. He is the right man, in the right place at the right time, and this is a very smart move by Lula,” said Andre Cesar, a political consultant with Hold Legislative Advisors.