Petrobras CEO vows to remain despite criticism over fuel price hike

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Joaquim Silva e Luna, CEO of Brazil's state-run oil company Petrobras speaks during a session at the plenary of the Chamber of Deputies in Brasilia, Brazil September 14, 2021. REUTERS/Adriano Machado

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RIO DE JANEIRO, March 14 (Reuters) - Petrobras Chief Executive Joaquim Silva e Luna said on Monday he will not leave the Brazilian state-run oil company despite facing criticism from President Jair Bolsonaro and others over a fuel price hike announced last week.

Luna, a retired army general, compared Petroleo Brasileiro SA's effort to raise prices to a "battle." Luna also said in an interview with Reuters that the increase was needed or Brazil could have faced the risk of fuel shortages.

"I am a soldier. The battlefield is my comfort zone. I do not run away from it, leaving my troops behind. A man's gotta do what a man's gotta do," Luna said. "There is no crisis."

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Luna was appointed to the job by Bolsonaro last year after his predecessor, Roberto Castello Branco, was fired due to a disagreement with Bolsonaro over the company's pricing policy.

Petrobras looks to track global markets with its domestic fuel prices. Last week it announced it was raising gasoline prices at the refinery gate by 19% and diesel prices by 25% after global oil quotes surged following Russia's invasion of Ukraine. read more

"The company is sensitive to the people's difficulties. Society has been crippled by two wars - first COVID, now this one (in Ukraine). But the hike was necessary, or we would face the risk of shortages," Luna said.

Bolsonaro over the weekend once again criticized the move but said he would not interfere in the market. The price hike adds to double-digit annual inflation in Latin America's largest economy ahead of an October presidential election in which Bolsonaro plans to seek re-election. read more

"It is an absurd profit that Petrobras has at an atypical moment in the world," Bolsonaro told reporters on Saturday.

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Reporting by Rodrigo Viga Gaier; Writing by Gabriel Araujo; Editing by Will Dunham

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