Brazil's Bolsonaro withdraws measure seen as weakening government transparency

FILE PHOTO: Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro gestures during a meeting with Argentina's President Mauricio Macri, at the Planalto Palace in Brasilia, Brazil January 16, 2019. REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino/File Photo

SAO PAULO (Reuters) - Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro late on Tuesday withdrew an executive order signed in January that would have increased the number of officials able to effectively keep government documents and data secret.

In January, Vice-President Hamilton Mourao, acting for Bolsonaro while the president underwent surgery, signed the measure that altered Brazil’s freedom of information rules by allowing a wider range of officials to designate information as secret or ultra-secret. The move was widely denounced by transparency advocates and journalists at the time.

In February, however, Brazil’s lower house voted to suspend the measure, in what amounted to the first legislative defeat for the right-wing Bolsonaro, who took power on Jan. 1.

While the suspension must still be confirmed by the senate, Bolsonaro decided to cancel the executive order, according to the Wednesday edition of the government’s official bulletin.

Reporting by Eduardo Simoes; Writing by Gram Slattery; Editing by Mark Heinrich