RIO DE JANEIRO/BRASILIA (Reuters) - Brazil’s right-wing president-elect Jair Bolsonaro on Monday picked retired General Carlos Alberto dos Santos Cruz as his minister in charge of political relations with Congress, adding a fifth military man to his cabinet.
Bolsonaro, a former army captain turned politician who surged to victory on a pledge to end years of corruption and rising violence, made the announcement in a Twitter post.
Moving to deliver on his law-and-order platform, Bolsonaro’s choice for justice and public security, former anti-corruption judge Sergio Moro, said he would coordinate federal and state police forces to better fight organized crime and slow the growth of Brazil’s powerful drug gangs that control swaths of cities.
Some Brazilians are concerned that the appointment of Santos Cruz, who led United Nations peacekeepers in Haiti and the Democratic Republic of Congo, and other current or former military officials marks a return to a militarized government. Bolsonaro takes office on Jan. 1.
Seeking to defuse those concerns, Bolsonaro, a fan of the 1964-85 military dictatorship, has vowed to adhere to Brazil’s constitution and has moderated some of his more extreme views expressed during almost three decades as a federal congressman.
Bolsonaro, who has long been a critic of the socialist government of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, again appeared to tone down his strident views on regional migration, saying that Venezuelans fleeing to Brazil could not be returned to their country “because they are not merchandise.”
In comments to reporters on the weekend, he also floated the idea of creating a refugee camp for Venezuelans in the northern border state of Roraima, while defending strict checks on who enters “because there are some people we don’t want in Brazil.”
A nongovernmental organization working on the Venezuelan exodus into Brazil said refugee camps were an “extreme option” for war zone areas and would worsen the plight of the immigrants.
“The camps would be far from urban areas and the Venezuelans want to be in urban areas to be able to rebuild their lives,” said Camila Asano of Conectas rights group.
She said the crisis has subsided in Roraima where there are 6,000 Venezuelans in shelters and the number living on the streets was down to 600.
Asano said, however, that a Brazilian Air Force airlift to move Venezuelans out of Roraima and to larger cities appeared to have slowed down.
In Brasilia, where Bolsonaro’s transition team is preparing to govern, Moro told reporters that he will create a secretariat of police operations to coordinate all Brazil’s security efforts by federal and state police forces to curb violence in the country that has more murders than any other.
Brazilian states have control over nearly all the police forces in the country, and Moro underscored he would respect their sovereignty.
But he said federal coordination was badly needed to improve street policing across Brazil and to tame the country’s overcrowded prisons, which are under the control of drug gangs who recruit from jail and where bloody uprisings are rampant.
Reporting by Gabriel Stargardter in Rio de Janeiro, and Anthony Boadle and Ricardo Brito in Brasilia; Editing by Brad Brooks and James Dalgleish