Lula Makes Changes to Cabinet in Bid to Bolster Support in Congress

(Bloomberg) -- Brazil President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva made changes to his cabinet on Wednesday, as he seeks to win congressional support for key agenda items from an influential bloc of lawmakers.

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Lula tapped congressman Silvio Costa Filho to lead the Ministry of Ports and Airports, where he will replace current minister Marcio França. Andre Fufuca, the leader of the center-right Progressive Party in the lower house, will take over the Ministry of Sports from Ana Moser, a former Olympic volleyball player. França will move to the new Ministry of Micro and Small Companies, the 38th cabinet-level position in Lula’s government.

The much-anticipated changes, which were announced in an official statement, are meant to bring a powerful group of parties known as the Centrao closer to Lula’s government as it seeks to finalize ambitious tax reform plans and secure approval of revenue-raising measures to help balance Brazil’s budget.

The president and his allies believe the shift will attract at least 60 additional votes to his base, primarily from the Progressives — the party of commanding lower house Speaker Arthur Lira — and the Republicanos, a party with strong ties to Brazil’s growing segment of evangelical voters.

The two parties collectively control 90 seats in the lower chamber, and each played an important role in the government of former President Jair Bolsonaro, Lula’s predecessor. Their support in congress may have broader political effects: Sao Paulo Governor Tarcisio de Freitas, who is widely considered a potential Lula challenger in 2026 now that Bolsonaro is banned from seeking office, is a member of Republicanos.

After struggling to build a congressional base early in his term, Lula has successfully won the approval of key economic proposals, including an initial overhaul of Brazil’s tax system and his fiscal framework plan, with multiparty support.

Read More: Lula Seeks to Tax the Rich to Help Balance Brazil’s Budget

But he has also faced setbacks. Congress weakened his Ministry of Environment earlier this year and has remained reluctant to embrace aspects of his plan to generate new revenues by taxing wealthy Brazilians.

The evangelical caucus, which includes 212 of the lower chamber’s 513 members, has also opposed the regulation of online sports betting, another effort to increase tax income and help zero the country’s primary budget deficit next year.

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