Brazilian Defence Minister Nelson Jobim resigned after criticizing recent government names to reporters and will be replaced by ex-foreign minister Celso Amorim, the president's office said Thursday.
Jobim, 65, took the job in 2007 under then-president Lula da Silva and oversaw a still-pending multi-billion tender for 36 new fighter jets. He stepped down after making derogatory remarks about two female senior government officials.
”Jobim presented his resignation to President (Dilma) Rousseff on Thursday night at the president's office and she accepted. The new minister is Celso Amorim,” Communications Minister Helena Chagas told reporters.
Amorim, 69, was foreign minister during Lula da Silva's eight years in office and a key player in the former president's foreign policy successes.
He is best known for efforts to improve ties among developing nations, tightening relations with Latin American countries, and for helping organize the BRICS nations (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa). Foreign Policy magazine has called Amorim the world's best foreign minister.
The BRICS group has emerged as a possible counter-force in international affairs to Western nations and the global financial crisis has enhanced its clout.
Leaders from all five countries, which account for 40% of the world's population, met last at a summit in April and they have coordinated on issues from climate change to trade and the war in Libya.
Jobim fell from grace after he was quoted as saying that the minister of institutional relations, Ideli Salvatti, lacked power, and that cabinet chief Gleisi Hoffmann doesn't even know the capital Brasilia.
Earlier Thursday, Jobim issued a statement denying the quotes -- due to appear in a magazine out for sale Friday -- but a government source said that President Rousseff considered his declaration beyond what is reasonable.
The outgoing defence chief also said in an interview a few weeks ago that he voted for arch-rival Jose Serra over Rousseff in the October 2010 election. This however was not seen so shocking since the former Justice was best man when Serra’s marriage.
Over the past year, Brazil has repeatedly delayed making a decision on the jet fighter tender, estimated between 4 to 7 billion dollars and pitting the US Boeing F/A-18 Super Hornet against France's Rafale by Dassault and Sweden's Gripen NG by Saab.
In February, Jobim announced that Brazil will make no decision in the short term on the jet fighter tender due to budget cuts.
A member of the centrist Democratic Movement Party (PMDB), Jobim was named in 2007 to put order in the defence ministry. He was justice minister in 1995-1997 under President Fernando Henrique Cardoso, and later joined the Supreme Court, rising to the position of chief justice in 2004.
The now former defence minister was much respected by the Armed Forces since he stopped several attempts to review a 1979 amnesty law which would have opened the possibility of sending officers on trial for alleged human rights crimes committed during the 1964/1985 dictatorship.
Jobim is the third minister to lose his job since Rousseff became president in January.
In June, powerful cabinet chief Antonio Palocci resigned after charges of illicit enrichment, and Transportation Minister Alfredo Nascimento quit over charges of corruption.