New year, new state. The Empresa Brasileira de Participações em Energia Nuclear e Binacional SA (ENBPar), of the Ministry of Mines and Energy, started operations in Brasília.

It is the second created by Jair Bolsonaro in three years — the first was NAV Brasil Serviços de Navegação Aérea SA.

EBNPar takes control of Eletronuclear, which owns the Angra plants, and the Brazilian half of the Itaipu hydroelectric plant, a binational undertaking in partnership with Paraguay.

It will gravitate towards the Navy, responsible for the development of nuclear technology, and the Eletrobras dam bureaucracy, which in June will complete 60 years of existence.

EBNPar and NAV Brasil become part of the constellation of public companies. The number of companies varies according to the calculation method.

In December 2019, for example, the Ministry of Economy reported the existence of 46 companies and 152 subsidiaries under direct control of the Union.

In addition to these, there were 218 under “significant influence” by the government, “but without having control”. And still 208 others “with mere participation” of the Union among the shareholders.

The government was a newborn, and the then Privatization Secretary, Salim Matar, explained: “In January, when we took over, we found 134 state-owned companies. We reviewed the numbers and, after those first nine months, we found more than 600 businesses in which the government has a stake.”

The internal investigation, he claimed, was aimed at transparency “so that society knows where the taxpayer’s money has been invested.”

Entrepreneur and patron of the Liberal Institute, Mattar estimated the number of employees in these companies at 470,000 and the value of Union assets subject to privatization at R$ 1.2 trillion — this account included Treasury shares in Petrobras. Six months later, he was back at his car rental company.

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He abandoned Brasília, because he gave up on Bolsonaro, he said at the time: “The government is not liberal. I believed in candidate Bolsonaro, in the candidate who talked about privatizing ‘TV da Dilma’, the bullet train company. But it was just a campaign speech.”

In 2018, two weeks before the first electoral round, Bolsonaro cradled neoliberal illusions from his voters, magnetized by solidarity with the candidate victimized by a knife attack.

At 6:17 am on Sunday, September 23, he used a social network to revalidate promises: “I made a commitment to reduce the number of ministries, extinguish and privatize most of the state-owned companies that exist today. These are unnecessary expenses that must serve the population. Refusing agreements that negotiate positions in exchange for support is already part of this objective.”

Seventeen months later, the Privatization Secretary threw in the towel: “They don’t want to privatize to continue the take-and-take”, said Mattar.

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Bolsonaro reached the last year of his term with 23 ministries and without a single privatization. On the contrary, it created two new companies, EBNPar and NAV Brasil, and an autarchy, the Autoridade Nacional de Segurança Nuclear.

He fights for re-election, wielding the same letter of intent that enchanted liberals such as businessman Mattar in 2018 – a faded list of assets for sale was attached (Eletrobras, Correios, Casa da Moeda, Telebras, Codesp, EBC, Lotex, Serpro, Dataprev, CBTU, Trensurb…).

If he’s lucky, he manages to take Eletrobras to auction later this year, and even then the contract ritual would only be concluded in 2023, under a new government.

The climate today is one of insecurity. Bolsonaro melts in the polls and Lula’s PT, leader in the polls, has announced his intention to undo privatizations.

As Bolsonaro did none, those privatized by the PT remain: 18 state-owned companies were sold in the Lula-Dilma cycle. It would be a revocation of the past itself.

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