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SAO PAULO – The judge at the center of Brazil's sprawling investigation into kickbacks to politicians said Tuesday he would consider joining the Cabinet of President-elect Jair Bolsonaro if invited.
Bolsonaro, a far-right former army captain who will take office Jan. 1, said during an interview after his Sunday election that he would ask federal judge Sergio Moro to be his justice minister or fill a future vacancy on the supreme court.
In a statement, Moro said he would be "honored" by such an invitation, and added that it "would be the object of careful discussion and reflection."
Moro leads the "Operation Car Wash" corruption probe, which was launched in 2014 and has led to the jailing of many business executives and politicians, including former President Luiz Inacio da Silva of the left-leaning Workers' Party. His supporters have accused the judge of bias against their leaders.
Bolsonaro ran on an anti-corruption, pro-gun and tough-on-crime platform.
In the interview with TV Record, he noted he held off on mentioning a role for Moro during the presidential race.
"If I had said that during the campaign that would be opportunistic," he said. "But now I can say I want to (invite Moro). Not only to the supreme court, but maybe to the justice ministry. I want to talk to him. For sure he will be a person of extreme importance."
Rosangela Wolff Moro, a lawyer married to the judge, has repeatedly suggested in her Instagram profile that she supported Bolsonaro against left-leaning Fernando Haddad, who was named the Workers' Party candidate after da Silva was barred by electoral authorities over his imprisonment.
Bolsonaro appeared in public Tuesday for the first time as president-elect. He visited a church led by ultraconservative pastor Silas Malafaia and spoke briefly to the faithful on stage.
"I am sure that I am not the most capable, but God capacitates the chosen ones," he said.
Bolsonaro's future chief-of-staff, Onyx Lorenzoni, said earlier that several current Cabinet positions will be merged into a single economy ministry, which will be led by economist Paulo Guedes.
"The minister of industry and commerce will be with economy. So, the minister of economy will include (fusion of) the finance, the planning and the industry and commerce ministry," Lorenzoni said.
Brazil's national industry confederation criticized the idea.
"We need a minister with a specific role, not linked to the economy ministry, which worries more about revenues and public finances," it said.
Most Brazilian business leaders endorsed Bolsonaro's candidacy.
The incoming administration also plans to merge the agriculture and environment ministries, a move that some farmers and many environmentalists oppose.
The nonprofit group Observatorio do Clima said the move aims to end any environmental regulation.
"Bolsonarism is showing his face: an ideological regime of violence and looting of natural resources, bending to the oldest forces of the producing sector," its statement said. "This undermines the competitivity of Brazilian agribusiness, which depends on strong environmental governance, and makes Brazil a pariah in the international scene."
Also on Tuesday, a few thousand people rallied in Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro to protest against the president-elect.