Rodrigo Pacheco’s strategy to win the government of Minas Gerais

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President of the Senate, Rodrigo Pacheco / Credit: Jonas Pereira/Agência Senado

“He is not great because he is president of Congress, especially because he does not become president of Congress for nothing. These attributes took him there, the attribute of understanding that politics is a place to actually talk to everyone, to sit down with people and look for solutions.”

This speech by Minas Gerais state deputy Lohanna França (PV-MG) to the JOTAshows a lot how Rodrigo Pacheco (PSD-MG) is seen among allies and opponents.

With a low profile, the current president of the Senate has a vertical climb in politics. Rodrigo Pacheco was elected federal deputy for Minas Gerais in 2014 by the MDB, two years later, he ran for mayor of the capital and came in third place with just over 10% of valid votes. The following year, he assumed the presidency of the main committee of the Chamber of Deputies, the Constitution and Justice Commission (CCJ). In 2018, as a pre-candidate for the government of Minas Gerais, Pacheco gave up his candidacy to be the state’s most voted senator. He took one of the vacancies, along with former presenter and radio host Carlos Viana, defeating none other than former president Dilma Rousseff, who was leading the polls and finished in fourth place.

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In the Senate, it gained importance in the articulation made by the then unknown senator from Amapá, Davi Alcolumbre, president of the House. In 2020, with the decision of direct action of unconstitutionality 6,524 by the Federal Supreme Court (STF) which prevented Alcolumbre’s re-election, Rodrigo Pacheco was elected president of the Senate, breaking a 44-year fast without any Minas Gerais occupying the chair of president of Congress . The last senator from Minas Gerais who presided over Congress was Magalhães Pinto during the Military Regime.

The president, whose example in politics is Juscelino Kubitschek, will remain in office until the end of this year and today has two important goals. The first is to leave a paved path for his succession as president of the Senate; the second is to become governor of Minas Gerais.

Pacheco has been working to bring Davi Alcolumbre, now at União Brasil, back to the position of president of the Senate. The task is not the easiest, but behind the scenes, he is masterfully untying the knots he has encountered along the way. At the beginning of March, he achieved one of the biggest assets: even without a leadership position in the house, Alcolumbre accompanied Pacheco to a Happy Hour at the Palácio do Alvorada promoted to leaders in the Senate. The two heard Lula praise Davi and declare Planalto’s support for the candidacy of the current president of the CCJ.

In addition to Lula, Pacheco managed another seam. According to sources, the PL bench, the party of former president Jair Bolsonaro and Valdemar da Costa Neto, also supports Alcolumbre’s election. The PL is the second largest group in the Senate, with 12 parliamentarians. The first is Pacheco’s PSD, with 15 senators.

This explains the right turn made by Rodrigo Pacheco in the second half of last year. In a nod to the opposition bench, the Senate approved, in November, a proposed amendment to the Constitution (PEC 8/2021), which limits monocratic decisions by ministers of the Supreme Court and other higher courts. With senator Rogério Marinho (PL-RN), leader of the opposition bench, sitting next to him, Rodrigo announced the result where 52 senators supported the approval of the PEC.

This year, still in a nod to the opposition, Pacheco spoke at the opening session of the Legislative Year and even without setting a date, he reinforced his intention to discuss more agendas from right-wing sectors with mandates from STF ministers and the restructuring of legal careers.

Debt and government of Minas

Interlocutors around Rodrigo Pacheco believe that this implementation of the package of measures against the Supreme Court has helped to win the favor of the center-right bench in Minas, which is causing support for the 2026 campaign for the government of Minas Gerais to grow.

Although President Lula beat Jair Bolsonaro in Minas Gerais in 2022, having the support of center-right voters is essential for who wants to be governor of the state. Opinion polls, the re-election of Romeu Zema in the first round and the vote for Nikolas Ferreira and senator Cleitinho in 2022, all supported by Bolsonaro, are examples of this.

But, even with this inclination to the right, Pacheco has an opportunity to win the sympathy of the left and the center: the fiscal crisis that is plaguing Minas.

At the end of last year, the senator took advantage of Governor Zema’s difficulties and lack of dialogue with Lula and presented an alternative to the fiscal recovery regime to resolve the 160 billion debt that Minas owes to the Union.

According to interlocutors from the Zema government, the website headlines with the photo of the President of the Senate delivering the proposal with President Lula and the Minister of Finance, Fernando Haddad, fell like an explosion in the Assembly of Minas.

“The entire effort to approve the Tax Recovery Regime in the Assembly was hampered. Once the deputies saw a less unpopular possibility for civil servants,” he stated.

Zema’s Fiscal Recovery Regime, which needed the approval of Minas Gerais deputies, includes the privatization of state-owned companies, debt repayment over 30 years and a salary freeze for civil servants for 10 years. The proposal submitted by Rodrigo Pacheco to the Union federalizes CEMIG, COPASA and Codemig and does not affect the readjustment of state employees.

Sources from the Zema Government stated that after the federalization proposal, it was difficult to find even representatives from the base. Meetings in the Assembly were easily obstructed by the opposition.

The political gain of Rodrigo Pacheco’s movement can be seen recently. At the beginning of March, the president of the Senate received left-wing deputies in Brasília who oppose Zema. The next day, it was the turn of the center and right-wing parliamentarians from Minas Gerais. Everything published on their social networks in smiling photos. Which only confirms what is being said behind the scenes: Rodrigo Pacheco is today the main coordinator of the Minas Gerais benches in the Chamber and the Legislative Assembly to deal with the state’s problems.

Representative Lohanna França, Zema’s opponent in the Assembly, who was with the bench in Brasília, told the JOTAunderstand that Pacheco’s protagonism is more than just a trick for 2026.

“I believe that he (Pacheco) does this thinking about the State and putting the interests of the miners first, but this is still a movement thinking about being governor. Because no one wants to be governor in a state that doesn’t have the money to do anything. So resolving this debt situation is essential even for eventual governability.”

After the meetings, Rodrigo Pacheco confirmed that the biggest concern of the two groups was the renegotiation of the debt. The solution must be defined by April 20th, the maximum deadline for the grace period that the State obtained from the STF. Otherwise, Governor Zema will have to pay the debt installments again, making his governability difficult.

“I reaffirmed to parliamentarians, due to the urgency, that the issue will be treated with the necessary priority, in the coming weeks, with the participation of everyone involved in the search for a solution to this problem that afflicts all miners”, he declared. The Ministry of Finance is expected to present a new proposal to improve the current tax recovery regime in the coming days.

Daniel Trevor – Freelance reporter

The article is in Portuguese

Tags: Rodrigo Pachecos strategy win government Minas Gerais

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