If it depends on the will of the Bolsonaro government, the former mayor of Rio, former senator and fired bishop Marcelo Crivella will be Brazil’s next ambassador to South Africa. role.
The first point needs separate thinking, but it seems wrong to talk about the religious apparatus of professional diplomacy, which even outlasted Ernesto Araújo. On the second point, Crivella is an experienced politician, speaks English and has spent ten years as a missionary in Africa. He is even more seasoned than many other names which, for convenience, have already been taken or cited for diplomatic posts.
Although Itamaraty seeks to protect embassies from career diplomats, this requirement is not formal. Ultimately, the appointment is political. The bishop’s problems are of a different order. Crivella was arrested in December and is charged in the corruption process at headquarters. As an ambassador, he would be entitled to special jurisdiction and would be tried by the Supreme Court, making his little corner of Pretoria a private kingdom of heaven. That in itself would be shocking to a government that claims to be spotless.
But Bolsonaro’s political calculation is more complex: it is not a question of helping an ally – to whom the president has turned his back in the municipal elections – but of finding the relationship with the universal Church of the Kingdom of God, d ‘Edir Macedo, of whom Crivella is a spokesperson for world politics. On the eve of the presidential race, this politico-spiritual machine is inescapable.
In addition to millions of followers spread across the country, Universal has the country’s second-largest communications network, Record, and is linked to a political party, the Republicans, with 33 MPs and a senator. The pragmatism of this religious group, which has previously supported Lula and Dilma, differs from the bigotry of other evangelical leaders, more concerned with conservative agendas in Congress.
With Universal, the game is different. A monumental company that it is, it demands that governments ensure its proper functioning, even outside the country. Gone are the days when it was enough to hand out diplomatic passports to promote missionary work abroad.
Today, Itamaraty is supposed to intercede for Brazilian pastors – and sometimes for Universal himself – in political or even criminal disputes. This was the case with the São Tomé and Príncipe crisis, which led to the depredation of temples and the tragic death of a teenager. The embassy had to be activated to prevent the expulsion of the church and its pastors.
In Angola, they were not so lucky. After clashes with Angolan pastors, the country’s Brazilian leaders were removed from their posts – in what they called a “religious coup” – amid accusations of crimes such as currency fraud and fraud. racism. Bolsonaro even sent a letter to the Angolan president asking for the protection of Brazilians, but was unable to reverse the recent expulsion of 34 church members. It was the password for Macedo’s group to publicly threaten to break with the government.
Crivella’s appointment was made public just as Angolan authorities claimed to have overwhelming evidence that the heads of Universal and Record in Angola had committed crimes such as money laundering and conspiracy, which strengthens the thesis. that the bishop’s departure for South Africa, the continent’s most strategic post, is a journey to save your soul and atone for the sins of the church, whose African ramifications are weakened.
Cynics will ask if previous governments have done any worse. After all, there was no shortage of uproar between mining companies and entrepreneurs in African countries. In this case, it’s as if Dilma Rousseff has decided to appoint, say, Marcelo Odebrecht as ambassador to save his company’s legacy, amid Lava Jato’s investigations and a year after his re-election campaign.
And with the possible blessing of the senators of the allied base.