CEO of Brazil’s oil and gas giant Petrobras steps down following dustup over dividends

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RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — The head of Brazil’s state-controlled oil and gas giant Petrobras has stepped down, the company said in a prepared statement Wednesday, following months of tensions with the federal government.

Petrobras opted not to pay extraordinary dividends to its shareholders earlier this year, souring relations between Petrobras CEO Jean Paul Prates and Brazil’s President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva.

Lula had defended that decision, calling the market a “voracious dinosaur” after shares plunged following the announcement regarding dividends. The company’s shares plunged another 7% on Prates’ departure.

“Markets and investors already know that the change of command at Petrobras represents more of the (Workers’ Party) government’s clumsy interventionism in the economy,” Sergio Moro, former justice minister in far-right Jair Bolsonaro’s government, said on social media.

Prates, a former senator for the ruling leftist Workers Party, will be replaced by engineer and former director of Brazil’s oil and gas regulator ANP, Magda Chambriard.

Petrobras appointed the executive director of corporate affairs, Clarice Coppetti, as interim President.