Jair Bolsonaro. Picture: REUTERS
Jair  Bolsonaro. Picture: REUTERS

Sao Paulo/Rio de Janeiro — Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro has continued to set out priorities for his new administration, stressing his desire for the quick passage of a bill to protect security officials and measures to open up competition in the banking sector.

The far-right president, elected on a law-and-order platform, warned in a tweet that sky-high violence would only slow if laws are passed to provide police and soldiers freedom from prosecution when on active duty.

“The legislative, executive and judicial powers have to make this commitment urgently,” he tweeted.

Throughout the campaign, Bolsonaro said he wanted to give police and soldiers peace of mind while on often-violent operations, and he has also advocated broadening access to guns so people can defend themselves.

Critics argue those ideas only risk inflaming Brazil’s violent streets and worsening Brazil’s murder tally, nearly 64,000 people in 2017, a record.

Since his inauguration on Tuesday, Bolsonaro has used executive orders to open up Brazil’s economy, crack down on violent drug gangs and redraw the country’s foreign policy while pushing conservative social measures.

The fast pace continued on Friday, with central bank governor Ilan Goldfajn telling newspaper Valor Economico that Bolsonaro is likely to confer power on the central bank to approve the entrance of new foreign lenders into Brazil.

The move could foster competition in a highly concentrated banking system, in which the five largest banks hold 85% of total assets. Currently, foreign banks need a presidential decree to operate in Brazil.

Separately, newspaper Folha de S Paulo reported Bolsonaro is considering a higher tax on personal loans as a way to fund development projects in Brazil’s poor north and northeast.

A presidential decree is likely to be issued in the coming days, the paper reported. This measure may displease Brazilian bankers as they have been lobbying for lower taxation as a way to reduce interest rates for consumers.

In a TV interview on Thursday, Bolsonaro said he would be open to the possibility of the US operating a military base in Brazil, a sharp shift in foreign policy.

Bolsonaro, a 63-year-old former army captain and admirer of Brazil’s military dictatorship of 1964-1985 and US President Donald Trump, has quickly deepened ties with the US and Israel.

On the domestic front, Onyx Lorenzoni, Bolsonaro’s chief of staff, said after a cabinet meeting on Thursday that the new administration is committed to a pension overhaul, and that a privatisation programme is under evaluation.

Reuters