Brazil's Bolsonaro shuffles Cabinet as COVID-19 pressure mounts

Three ministers left the government, including Foreign Minister Ernesto Araujo, a China hawk whose departure followed mounting criticism from lawmakers of his failure to guarantee additional COVID-19 vaccine supplies from Beijing and Washington. Araujo had been under pressure for weeks.

Reuters | Updated: 30-03-2021 06:22 IST | Created: 30-03-2021 06:22 IST
Brazil's Bolsonaro shuffles Cabinet as COVID-19 pressure mounts

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro made six Cabinet changes on Monday in the biggest ministerial reshuffle since he took office as pressure mounts on the far-right leader over his handling of the pandemic that has killed over 300,000 in the country. Three ministers left the government, including Foreign Minister Ernesto Araujo, a China hawk whose departure followed mounting criticism from lawmakers of his failure to guarantee additional COVID-19 vaccine supplies from Beijing and Washington.

Araujo had been under pressure for weeks. His verbal attacks on China, environmentalists and the left were increasingly seen as noisy distractions, especially given the change in U.S. leadership and the worsening health crisis in Brazil. Bolsonaro seized on the loss of one of his most loyal allies to shore up support in his Cabinet, putting his chief of staff in charge of the Defense Ministry and placing a federal police officer close to his family in charge of the Justice Ministry.

"Bolsonaro is under enormous pressure and reacted to regain the political narrative," said Creomar de Souza, founder of Dharma Political Risk and Strategy in Brasilia. "The change at the Ministry of Defense was completely unexpected, and created a lot of confusion." Latin America's largest economy is suffering its worst phase of the pandemic, with deaths topping 3,000 a day as a contagious new variant rages through the country. Bolsonaro has gained international notoriety for railing against lockdowns, sowing doubts on vaccines and pushing unproven "miracle" cures.

Brazil trails only the United States in total COVID-19 cases and deaths. Amid growing discontent over coronavirus deaths and the return of leftist former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva to the political stage - a threat to Bolsonaro's re-election hopes next year - the president is eager to lock in political and popular support.

UNEXPECTED DEPARTURES There had been no advance word of Defense Minister Fernando Azevedo e Silva's exit or rumors of discontent. The president has placed current and former military officials throughout his government, leading to concerns that the military's reputation could suffer.

"During this time, I preserved the Armed Forces as institutions of state," Azevedo e Silva wrote in a ministry statement. "I leave in the certainty of a mission accomplished." In his place, Bolsonaro appointed his current chief of staff, Walter Souza Braga Netto, one of several former army generals who had moved into the government's inner orbit.

Another former general, Luiz Eduardo Ramos, will take over as chief of staff, leaving his Cabinet-level post handling legislative priorities to Flavia Arruda, a first-term lawmaker with ties to Bolsonaro's new allies in Congress. Outgoing Solicitor General Jose Levi Mello, whose signature was notably absent from a government request that the Supreme Court block state stay-at-home measures in the pandemic, said in a letter he would resign.

Bolsonaro will replace him with current Justice Minister André Mendonça, whose role goes to Anderson Gustavo Torres, a federal police officer currently in charge of public security for the Federal District, which includes the capital, Brasilia. Carlos Alberto Franco França, a diplomat close to Bolsonaro, was named as the new foreign minister, according to a statement from the presidential press office outlining the changes.

Last week, Bolsonaro replaced Health Minister Eduardo Pazuello, an active-duty general who had overseen most of the coronavirus response. He was widely blamed for a patchy vaccine program that has given a first dose to fewer than 10% of adults. New Health Minister Marcelo Queiroga told lawmakers on Monday he was hopeful of procuring U.S. vaccine supplies, and would be meeting with the U.S. ambassador in an effort to secure earlier delivery of 20 million doses.

(This story has not been edited by Devdiscourse staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)


TRENDING

OPINION / BLOG / INTERVIEW

Blockchain in Healthcare: Opportunities and challenges

The use of blockchain in healthcare is a relatively new innovation with many of its uses still being explored and related technologies being developed, improved, and scaled. ...

Debate surrounding vaccine passports and development misses bigger picture

... ...

Blockchain vs IOTA: Looking for a better alternative

... ...

For stability, Iraq needs to crack down on corruption

... ...

Videos

Latest News

Andhra Pradesh announces policy to set up oxygen plants

Aiming to double oxygen manufacturing capacity to 700 tonnes by refurbishing sick units for producing oxygen, Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister YS Jagan Mohan Reddy has unveiled the Andhra Pradesh Industrial Gases and Medical Oxygen Manufacturi...

U.S. warship again sails through sensitive Taiwan Strait

A U.S. warship has again sailed through the sensitive waterway that separates Taiwan from its giant neighbour China, at a time of increased tensions between Taipei and Beijing. The U.S. Navys 7th Fleet said the Arleigh Burke-class guided mi...

Lebanese president seeks to avert crisis with Gulf over minister's comments

Lebanons president said on Tuesday that critical comments made by the foreign minister about Gulf states did not reflect official policy, seeking to avoid further strain on ties with countries that have been Lebanons allies and donors. Mire...

Senate Democrat proposes $52 billion for U.S. chips production, R&D

U.S. Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer unveiled revised bipartisan legislation late Tuesday to approve 52 billion to significantly boost U.S. semiconductor chip production and research over five years. The emergency funding proposal wi...

Give Feedback