Former car dealer named Brazil energy minister

By
Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Former used car dealer Eduardo Braga (pictured) has been appointed Brazil's new mining and energy minister as part of a 13-member cabinet reshuffle unveiled by President Dilma Rousseff.

Braga, the senate leader of the centrist PMDB party, will officially replace Edison Lobão on January 1, the government said in a statement.

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The announcement comes after Lobão was implicated by a government witness in an alleged money laundering ring involving state-run oil giant Petrobras. He has denied the claims.

Among Braga's priorities will be to address an escalating crisis at the Rio de Janeiro-based firm, whose shares have lost over 85% of their value since 2009.

In addition to the corruption claims – which triggered a federal police investigation dubbed Operation Car Wash – Petrobras has been hit by stagnant production and falling revenue from a drop in crude prices.

Braga will also need to find a solution to Brazil's increasing reliance on backup thermoelectric power plants amid falling output from drought-stricken hydroelectric dams.

The 54-year-old's appointment comes after a long political career that has included spells as mayor of Manaus and governor of Amazonas state.

He is also a successful entrepreneur and in 2008 sold controlling stakes in car dealerships in the states of Amazonas, Acre, Rondônia and Roraima.

Rousseff's cabinet changes follow her October re-election for a second four-year term.

Her workers' party is relying on support from allies such as PMDB to govern after failing to win a majority of seats in the lower house.