RIO DE JANEIRO – The head of state development bank BNDES and a key member of beleaguered Brazilian President Michel Temer’s economic team resigned on Friday, citing personal reasons.
Maria Silvia Bastos Marques communicated her decision in a brief letter to officials at that institution, the Brazilian government’s main financial arm for development projects.
She said she would be replaced on an interim basis by a BNDES director, Ricardo Ramos, and that all other directors at that financial institution would remain at their posts.
Temer, for his part, praised Bastos’ leadership during her year-long tenure, saying her efforts had ensured BNDES was using more rigorous criteria in assessing applications for loans to fund large corporate projects.
Bastos, nicknamed the “iron lady” because she had previously headed up Brazilian steelmaker Companhia Siderurgica Nacional, was the first woman to lead BNDES, one of the world’s largest development banks with a loan portfolio comparable to that of the Inter-American Development Bank.
Her resignation, attributed to pressure from business leaders unhappy with a sharp drop in loan disbursements during her tenure and to the government’s lukewarm defense of her job performance, leaves Temer even more isolated amid serious corruption allegations.
Some key allies of the president have distanced themselves from him since the Supreme Court last week formally launched an investigation into bribery and obstruction of justice allegations.
Temer is accused of accepting millions of dollars’ worth of bribes from Brazilian meatpacking giant JBS and encouraging continued payments to an imprisoned former speaker of Brazil’s lower house of Congress to keep him from turning state’s witness.
Executives from JBS, whose business empire has significantly expanded due to billions of dollars’ worth of acquisitions in the United States over the past decade, made those allegations to prosecutors as part of plea-bargain testimony, saying they paid the bribes to secure contracts and ensure easy access to credit from BNDES and other state-run banks.
Temer has vehemently denied the accusations and vowed not to resign.
Earlier this month, Brazil’s Federal Police launched an investigation of suspected irregularities on the part of BNDES in the granting of loans to the holding company behind JBS, the world’s largest meatpacker.
The bank’s decision to loan money to J&F Investimentos without requiring the necessary repayment guarantees cost the Brazilian treasury 1.2 billion reais ($368 million), the Federal Police said in a statement on May 12.