Brazilian prosecutors are seeking to stop the son of President Jair Bolsonaro from being appointed ambassador to the US amid mounting concerns about nepotism in Latin America’s largest nation.
Eduardo Bolsonaro was last month picked by his father to take up the top diplomatic post in Washington in a move that was hailed by US President Donald Trump but widely criticised in Brasília.
Known as “03” — the president’s third son — Eduardo is an influential legislator who heads Congress’s foreign affairs committee. Since the election of his father last October, he has played a key role in Brazil’s foreign relations and is seen by many as a de facto foreign minister.
His nomination for the ambassadorship, however, generated controversy and fierce opposition from politicians, who will be required to vote on the proposal if it goes ahead. To be approved, the nomination requires a full vote by the Senate, the upper house of Congress.
At one point, the Brazilian president even threatened to sack the nation’s foreign minister and replace him with his son if legislators did not approve his choice for the coveted diplomatic job.
On Monday, public prosecutors moved to cut short the furore by announcing they had asked a Brasília court to bar the appointment of 35-year-old Eduardo. They are asking the court to rule that the post requires at least three years’ experience serving the nation abroad.
In a filing, the prosecutors pointed out that Eduardo Bolsonaro only has four months experience in foreign relations.
“The appointment of a person without diplomatic experience could put into jeopardy national interests and information, especially if there is a proximity in personal relations, which seems to be the case,” the prosecutors said.
The filing also pointed to the need for “better preparation of the diplomatic corps”.
Legislators’ efforts to prevent the appointment come amid continued public discontent. Politicians from both houses of Congress have in recent weeks introduced proposals seeking to crack down on nepotism in the public service.
“This nomination follows on Bolsonaro’s disrespect for our democratic and republican institutions . . . The complexity of the tasks of our ambassador in Washington is not being considered,” said Monica Herz, a senior fellow at the Brazilian Centre for International Relations.
“The fact that the president is putting his own son there will make us look like a banana republic,” said Oliver Stuenkel, a professor of international relations at Fundação Getúlio Vargas.
The controversy mirrors a heated debate in the US about the role and influence of Mr Trump’s family. Ivanka Trump, the US president’s daughter, was slammed by critics after a high-profile appearance at the G20 summit in Japan.
Jair Bolsonaro said his son would make a good ambassador to the US owing to his language skills and close relationship with the Trump family.
Mr Trump, meanwhile, has said he was “very happy” with the choice of Eduardo, who was applauded for orchestrating a successful state visit to US by his father earlier this year. “I found his son to be outstanding, he’s a brilliant, wonderful young man,” Mr Trump said last month.
Eduardo Bolsonaro, a gun-lover who supports the US National Rifle Association, has cited his experience working in the US at Popeyes, a fast-food chain, as a qualification for the ambassadorial role.
He is also the Latin American leader of The Movement, the right-wing populist group spearheaded by US ideologue Steve Bannon.
“Eduardo is already known by most top echelon people relevant to Brazil all over Washington,” said someone close to the Bolsonaro family and administration. “Eduardo is high energy, gets stuff done and is wise beyond his years.”