Brazil withdraws nomination for embassy in South Africa

The Jair Bolsonaro administration has decided to withdraw the appointment of former Rio de Janeiro Mayor Marcelo Crivella to the Brazilian Embassy in South Africa. An evangelical bishop, Mr. Crivella was picked for the post back in June, but the agrément request sent by Brazilian authorities has so far gone unanswered.

In international affairs, an agrément consists of a state’s understanding to receive members of a foreign diplomatic mission. The lack of an answer is the field’s equivalent of a “no.”

Picking Mr. Crivella was a way for Mr. Bolsonaro to cater to the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God (Iurd), one of the country’s biggest and most influential neo-pentecostal churches. As well as being present nationwide, it owns one of Brazil’s most powerful media conglomerates.

Relations between the government and the church have been strained, as Iurd executives have called out the Foreign Affairs Ministry for what they consider its “omission” in response to a crisis the church is facing in Angola. Multiple Brazilian religious leaders have been expelled from the country, as Angolan counterparts seize control over temples. Through its media channels, the church openly urged the government to take action.

The nomination disgruntled seasoned diplomats, who criticized the idea of handing one of Brazil’s most important positions in Africa as a political gesture. Sources also tell The Brazilian Report there was much resistance to Mr. Crivella’s appointment within the Senate — which is tasked with confirming all diplomatic nominations. Foreign ministry officials also argue that the chancellery should not interfere in private affairs, as the Iurd’s situation is not a problem of the Brazilian state.

But giving up on Mr. Crivella could rock the president’s relationship with the Republicanos party, the Iurd’s political arm.

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