Petrobras CEO resigns amid political blowback on fuel price hike

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The chief executive of Brazil’s state-run oil company Petrobras resigned on Monday in the face of mounting pressure from politicians after the firm announced a fuel price hike last week, adding to inflation concerns in an election year.

Petroleo Brasileiro SA, as the company is formally known, said in a securities filing that CEO Executive Jose Mauro Coelho had resigned on Monday morning and an interim CEO would now be appointed for the board’s consideration.

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The interim CEO would become Petrobras’ fourth chief executive since Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro took office in 2019.

Coelho had succeeded Roberto Castello Branco and Joaquim Silva e Luna, both ousted after disagreements with Bolsonaro on the company’s fuel pricing policy.

On Friday, after Petrobras said it was raising gasoline and diesel prices at its refineries, Lower House Speaker Arthur Lira called for Coelho’s resignation and Bolsonaro called the move a betrayal of the Brazilian people.

Bolsonaro, who faces an uphill re-election bid in October’s election amid high inflation driven by energy prices, also said he and Lira had discussed opening a congressional investigation into Petrobras’ board of directors.

Coelho was appointed CEO by the government in early April, but less than two months later the Bolsonaro administration decided to pick senior economy ministry official Caio Mario Paes de Andrade to replace him.

Paes de Andrade, however, can only take over after being elected to Petrobras’ board of directors, so Coelho had been keeping the position for now.

According to Petrobras, Coelho has also resigned as board member.

Separately, Petrobras said on Monday that a board member had taken the personal initiative to suggest a 45-day freeze on fuel prices in return for the government to withdraw its proposedshakeup of the company’s board and management.

Petrobras said that the board member’s suggestion in a June 17 letter had not been formally discussed at the firm.

Read more: Biden blasts oil refiners for record profits on pain at the pump

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