Bolsonaro's new justice minister replaces Brazil federal police chiefs

FILE PHOTO: Brazil's President Bolsonaro looks on during a ceremony of delivering low-income residences in Brasilia
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Ricardo Brito
·2 min read
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By Ricardo Brito

BRASILIA (Reuters) - Brazil's new justice minister on Tuesday replaced the heads of the federal police and federal highway police with candidates backed by President Jair Bolsonaro, amid concerns the right-wing leader seeks more direct influence over law enforcement.

Named last week as part of Bolsonaro's largest Cabinet shakeup to date, Justice Minister Anderson Torres said on Twitter that Paulo Maiurino would replace federal police chief Rolando de Souza. Torres additionally named Silvinei Vasques to take the position of Eduardo Aggio, the head of Brazil's federal highway police.

Torres, himself a federal police officer, is close to the Bolsonaro family. Critics fear his appointment will allow the president to have undue control over federal police probes into his family and supporters.

Critics also warn he could help Bolsonaro increase his support among state police forces, which some view as an unpredictable element in next year's fraught presidential vote.

A government official, who spoke on condition of anonymity ahead of the official announcements, said the changes are part of a normal process when a new minister takes office and seeks to appoint his allies to key roles. The source said Bolsonaro gave Torres freedom to pick his own names, but said the president would review and approve his choices.

"Changes are natural," Bolsonaro said at a swearing-in ceremony for Torres on Tuesday. "We know that all the changes you will make in your ministry are to better arrange it for its objective. You want the Ministry of Justice as focused as possible for the good of everyone in our country."

Bolsonaro has already been accused of trying to meddle in the independence of the federal police. Last year, before leaving the government, former Justice Minister Sergio Moro said Bolsonaro had been seeking to change the federal police chief since 2019 for personal and political reasons.

(Reporting by Ricardo Brito in Brasilia; Editing by Jonathan Oatis and Matthew Lewis)