The government Jair Bolsonaro set up an operation involving figures of the first rank to try to ensure a victory for the Petrobras (PETR4) on trial at the Supreme Federal Court (STF) on Wednesday about the sale of refineries by the state-owned company without legislative approval.
The move appears to help the outcome of the trial, which is expected to have a tight score in favor of the government, according to three sources with knowledge of the matter.
One of them said that the court will signal to the state-owned oil company to go ahead with its package of sales of eight refineries or about 50% of the country’s refining capacity – which are among the main assets of the divestment plan.
In an example of the dealings with the STF, on Tuesday the ministers of Mines and Energy, Bento Albuquerque, and the Attorney General’s Office, José Levi Mello, talked by videoconference with Minister Dias Toffoli, according to the magistrate’s official agenda.
On Wednesday, the day the trial began, the pair set up a meeting with Rosa Weber, according to the agenda of the Supreme Minister.
Last week, Petrobras CEO Roberto Castello Branco met with court president Luiz Fux, according to one of the sources.
“The government has great chances of achieving a victory to avoid an injunction that prevented business on the way to Petrobras,” said another source.
“I think that majority will run over Congress,” reinforced a third person.
Last week, the president of the STF had decided to remove this process from analysis in a virtual trial when there were three votes against his intentions to sell refineries without the approval of the Congress, given by Ministers Edson Fachin, the rapporteur, Marco Aurélio Mello and Ricardo Lewandowski.
Later, Luiz Fux decided to take the process to the physical plenary on Wednesday – an initiative that ends up zeroing the votes given so far.
The virtual trial at the STF began after a request from the Chief Executive Officers of the Chamber of Deputies, the Senate and Congress, who argued that the eventual sale of the refineries would go against a previous STF decision last year, according to which only an endorsement by the Congress for the sale of a parent company.
Ministers who voted against argued that the company would need Congressional approval to sell the refineries because the operation involves creating subsidiaries exclusively for the purpose of further privatization.
Discussions about privatization take place at a time when Petrobras has advanced processes for the sale of refineries in Bahia and Paraná.
At the time of the action of the tables against Petrobras’ plans, the Ministries of Mines and Energy and Economy released a note in which they stated that the privatization of refineries is in line with the national energy policy and defended that these transactions would not go against the understanding of the STF.