Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro on Tuesday named a family friend to head the federal police.
The government’s official gazette confirmed the appointment of new federal police chief Alexandre Ramagem, 48, who took charge of the president’s security after Bolsonaro was stabbed on the campaign trail in 2018.
Ramagem, who joined the federal police in 2005, has run the Brazilian Intelligence Agency since July.
Bolsonaro said he would allow the federal police under the command of its new chief to have full autonomy from the government.
The appointment comes days after Bolsonaro’s justice minister Sergio Moro quit and accused the president of meddling in law enforcement for political motives.
On Friday, Moro alleged in a stunning televised address that Bolsonaro had repeatedly said he wanted a “personal contact” in the top police job “from whom he could get information, intelligence reports.”
The controversy over the appointment and allegations from Moro of improper interference in the police force triggered talk of impeachment and a criminal investigation approved by the Supreme Court.
Brazil’s Supreme Court had on Monday given the green light for the top public prosecutor to investigate Bolsonaro over the allegations of interfering in law enforcement. Justice Celso de Mello gave the federal police 60 days to carry out the investigation requested by Brazil’s chief public prosecutor Augusto Aras.
Based on the results of the police investigation, the public prosecutor will decide whether to press charges against the president. An indictment would have to be approved by the lower house.
Earlier on Tuesday, the opposition Democratic Labor Party asked the Supreme Court to block Ramagem’s nomination, alleging an abuse of power.
The affair has sparked talk in Congress of impeachment, just four years after such proceedings toppled former President Dilma Rousseff.
Moro said he had never seen political interference of the kind sought by Bolsonaro over Brazil’s federal police, even under previous governments whose officials and allies were convicted of participating in sweeping corruption schemes.
A New Year’s party photo on social media of Ramagem grinning beside the president’s son Carlos Bolsonaro, a Rio de Janeiro city councilman, circulated widely on Tuesday, emphasizing the close ties between the family and the new top cop.
Newspaper Folha de S.Paulo reported that Carlos Bolsonaro is the subject of a Supreme Court probe looking at his role in disseminating “fake news.” His brother, lawmaker Eduardo Bolsonaro, was accused in a congressional investigation of participating in a “fake news” scheme.
Their eldest brother, Senator Flavio Bolsonaro, is also being investigated by state prosecutors in Rio de Janeiro over alleged money laundering and misuse of public funds.
All three have denied any wrongdoing. They and the president have decried the probes as politically motivated attacks.
Over the weekend, Bolsonaro took to Facebook to defend Ramagem, after word of his nomination leaked to the press.
“So what? I knew Ramagem before he knew my children. Should he be vetoed for that reason? Whose friend should I pick?” the president said in a post.
By Ricardo Brito and Lisandra Paraguassu