The appointment of Marcelo Crivella (Republicans) as Brazilian ambassador to South Africa has prompted complaints from Angolan government officials, who fear that the former mayor of Rio will turn the diplomatic mission into an outpost of the Church Universal Kingdom of God (IURD) on the African continent.
Universal is going through a crisis in Angola, with the rebellion of local clerics and the involvement of the institution’s Brazilian leaders in accusations of financial crimes. Thus, the IURD split has become a point of tension between the governments of Brazil and Angola. One of the most tense chapters of this crisis occurred in mid-May, when 34 Brazilians linked to missionary work received notification from authorities in Luanda that they were to be expelled.
The church led by Bishop Edir Macedo began to demand from Jair Bolsonaro greater involvement of Itamaraty in defending the interests of the institution in the African country. In a nod to the evangelical caucus, the president then decided to appoint Crivella, a bishop graduated from IURD, as ambassador to Pretoria.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has already sent the official consultation on the appellation, known as approval, a procedure prior to the referral of the candidate for analysis by the Federal Senate.
Accreditation is confidential communication in which one country requests the consent of the other to send a new ambassador. The practice is that the request is returned only if the response is positive. If the country which will receive the selected name has an objection, the request is ignored, as a sign of refusal.
Criticisms of Crivella’s appointment were presented, in private conversations, by members of the Angolan government to interlocutors in Itamaraty and to the South African authorities. Wanted, the Brazilian ministry and the Angolan embassy in Brasilia did not respond.
The unease was also expressed by representatives of the Mozambican government, according to information made to Folha, since the IURD is also present in the Mozambican territory.
The fear of these countries is that Crivella will use the structure of the Brazilian mission to defend the interests of Universal throughout the region. Besides opposition from the two countries, the choice embarrassed Itamaraty and created a fair skirt for the South African government led by Cyril Ramaphosa.
On the one hand, South Africa does not want to quarrel with two African nations with which it has strong economic and political ties. But he also wouldn’t want to disagree with the Bolsonaro government, one of the Brics partners, a bloc also formed by Russia, India and China.
A person who follows the subject said, on condition of anonymity, that South Africa tends to tolerate Crivella to avoid a direct clash with the Brazilian president, because, in diplomatic practice, the rejection of a candidate ambassador is considered a sign of strong dissatisfaction.
In South Africa, Universal is also going through a crisis, with situations similar to those recorded in Angola. But the South African schism is smaller, an interlocutor told Folha. In Itamaraty, the appointment of Crivella causes unease because of the current head of the Brazilian mission in Pretoria, Ambassador Sérgio Danese. A career diplomat, he has been in post for less than a year.
Danese is one of the most senior active diplomats in Itamaraty. In the 1990s, he held important positions in the ministries of finance and the environment and was head of the Brazilian embassies in Algiers and Buenos Aires. Between 2015 and 2016, Danese was also Secretary General of Itamaraty, the second most important post in the hierarchy of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Even if the South African government gives the green light to Crivella, the accession of the politician to this post still depends on the Minister of the STF (Supreme Federal Court) Gilmar Mendes. In February, the magistrate revoked the arrest that had been ordered of the former mayor of Rio, but instituted precautionary measures, such as a ban on leaving the country and the collection of passports.
In May, the politician’s defense asked the minister to reconsider the decision and release him to leave Brazil. Gilmar can analyze the request on his own or refer the case to the second panel of the tribunal.
Crivella was arrested in December by order of Judge Rosa Macedo Guita, of the Rio de Janeiro Court of Justice. He was arrested in an operation by the civil police and the public prosecutor, who denounced the politician and 25 other people for criminal organization, money laundering and passive and active corruption.