Former car dealer named Brazil energy minister

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.