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Brazil's Bolsonaro targets 'lying' press, wants crusading judge as minister

SAO PAULO (Reuters) - Brazilian president-elect Jair Bolsonaro has revisited his most contentious campaign promises, calling for looser gun laws, urging a high-profile anti-corruption judge to join his government and promising to cut government advertising for media that “lie.”

Jair Bolsonaro, far-right lawmaker and presidential candidate of the Social Liberal Party (PSL), gestures at a polling station in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil October 28, 2018. REUTERS/Pilar Olivares

In interviews with TV stations and on social media, Bolsonaro, a 63-year-old former Army captain, who won 55 percent of Sunday’s vote and will be sworn in on Jan. 1, made clear he would not waste time in pushing through his conservative agenda.

Bolsonaro, who ran on a law-and-order platform, said he wants Sergio Moro, the judge who has overseen the sprawling “Car Wash” corruption trials and convicted former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva of graft, to join his government as justice minister.

Barring that, he said he would nominate him to the Supreme Court. The next vacancy on the court is expected in 2020.

Moro did not respond to requests for comment.

But Ascânio Seleme, editor in chief for the O Globo newspaper, wrote in a Tuesday blog post on the publication’s website that Moro should not accept the offer to become justice minister. He has too much work to do on pending corruption trials, Seleme wrote.

Seleme added it would also bolster accusations from the Workers Party (PT), whose candidate Fernando Haddad lost to Bolsonaro in Sunday’s vote, that Moro has a vendetta against the PT and worked to keep it from power.

The PT accuses Moro of finding da Silva, its founder, guilty of graft to block him from making a presidential run.

The guilty verdict was upheld on appeal and Brazil’s Supreme Court has rejected numerous requests to free the former president, universally known as Lula.

The Globo newspaper, in a separate article citing unnamed sources close to the judge, reported on Tuesday that Moro was weighing Bolsonaro’s offer, feeling that he could reassure citizens concerned the president-elect will not govern democratically.


Late on Monday, Bolsonaro said in an interview with Globo TV that he would cut government advertising funds that flow to any “lying” media outlets.

During his campaign, the right-winger imitated U.S. President Donald Trump’s strategy of aggressively confronting the media. In particular, he took aim at Globo TV and especially Brazil’s biggest newspaper, the Folha de S.Paulo.

“I am totally in favor of freedom of the press,” Bolsonaro told Globo TV. “But if it’s up to me, press that shamelessly lies will not have any government support.”

Bolsonaro was referring to the hundreds of millions of reais the Brazilian government spends in advertising each year in local media outlets, mainly for promotions of state-run firms.

The UOL news portal, owned by the Grupo Folha, which also controls the Folha de S.Paulo newspaper, used Brazil’s freedom of information act as the basis for a 2015 article that showed Globo received 565 million reais in federal government spending in 2014. Folha got 14.6 million reais that year.

The federal government’s secretariat for communication, which tracks the figures, did not immediately reply for a request on how much money the government has spent on media advertising since 2014.

Neither Grupo Globo nor Grupo Folha replied to requests for comment.

Reporting by Brad Brooks, editing by Larry King