Brazil justice minister threatens to quit over police appointment, source says

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BRASILIA (Reuters) – Brazilian Justice Minister Sergio Moro has threatened to resign if President Jair Bolsonaro goes ahead with plans to change the head of the federal police, a person with knowledge of the matter told Reuters on Thursday.

Moro is one of the most popular ministers in the government due to his record fighting corruption as a federal judge and Bolsonaro originally touted him as a “super minister” in charge of implementing a law-and-order agenda.

Financial markets retreated on the news of instability in the presidential cabinet, with Brazil’s currency weakening to a record low of 5.50 against the dollar and the benchmark Bovespa stock index slipping as much as 2.6%.

Moro’s departure along with the head of Brazil’s federal police would be a serious blow to Bolsonaro’s argument that he is bolstering the fight against graft with investigations free of political interference.

Moro’s spokeswoman said the minister would not confirm he had said he would resign. The presidential press office did not respond to a request for comment.

Newspaper Folha de S.Paulo first reported Moro’s possible departure in an article published to its website, saying he had asked to quit and Bolsonaro was working to change his mind.

Moro’s role in the government has served as a symbol of the fight against corruption, which was central to Bolsonaro’s 2018 campaign. The justice minister’s performance was rated “good” or “great” by 53% of Brazilians surveyed in December by pollster Datafolha, compared to just 30% for Bolsonaro’s performance.

Yet the relationship between the two has grown tense, especially as Bolsonaro showed interest in changing the leadership of the federal police force in Rio de Janeiro, where he built his political base in three decades as a lawmaker.

Moro and Federal Police Chief Mauricio Valeixo, who was tapped for his role by the minister, resisted suggestions for the Rio job publicly floated by Bolsonaro, leading the president to propose in August that Valeixo himself could be replaced.

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