The commanders of Brazil’s army, navy, and air force, General Edson Leal Pujol, Admiral Ilques Barbosa, and Lt. Brig Antonio Carlos Bermudez, have all resigned following the resignation of defense minister Fernando Azevedo e Silva on Monday.
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro is increasingly under fire by the population especially given his mishandling of the COVID-19 pandemic. He has resisted implementing quarantine measures, stating that the damage to Brazil’s economy would be worse than the virus itself. There have been nearly 12.5 million cases of the coronavirus and over 314,000 deaths in Brazil. Less than two percent of the Brazilian population have been vaccinated against COVID-19. Bolsonaro had even told Brazil’s citizens to “stop whining.”
Bolsonaro, who has been in office since 2019, reshuffled his cabinet following a slew of resignations.
Azevedo resigned after his disagreement with Bolsonaro over the loyalty of the armed forces. Azevedo said that the armed forces should be upholding the constitution rather than supporting the president personally. Azevedo’s resignation came after Bolsonaro had demanded that the leaders of the defense ministry be more loyal to him than to the constitution, according to the Brazilian newspaper Estado. The defense ministry refused to abide by Bolsonaro’s demands.
Attorney General Andre Levi also resigned after refusing to sign Bolsonaro’s orders aimed at lifting the COVID-19 lockdown orders imposed by the governors of three states. Former Justice Minister Andre Mendonca will replace Levi while Federal Police Chief Anderson Torres, a friend of Bolsonaro’s family, will replace Mendonca at the Justice Ministry.
Furthermore, Secretary of State General Luiz Eduardo Ramos was replaced by Flavio Arruda. Ramos had been appointed as a government minister to replace Defense Minister Braga Netto.
Also, Foreign Affairs Minister Ernesto Araujo was forced to resign and replaced by Carlos Alberto Franca. Araujo was heavily criticized for his mishandling of relations with the U.S., China, and India which resulted in Brazil being woefully short of the COVID-19 vaccine.
Additionally, Bolsonaro replaced the country’s Health Minister, army General Eduardo Pazuello, the third health minister to leave office since the pandemic began a year ago. Pazuello was investigated by the Supreme Court for alleged neglect that contributed to the collapse of the healthcare system in Amazonas state this year.
The Brazilian president had ridden a wave of popularity last year due to a generous pandemic welfare program. However, the program ended in December, and, combined with a rising number of COVID-19 cases, especially among the young, Bolsonaro’s popularity has evaporated.
Bolsonaro has frequently clashed with the Brazilian Congress and Supreme Court as these built-in checks and balances are a constant source of irritation to him. He has also criticized the Supreme Court for upholding local governments’ rights to adopt pandemic restrictions that he adamantly opposes.
Brazil’s death rate due to COVID-19 continues to rise as the lack of vaccinations is keenly felt. Brazil’s daily deaths of about 2,400, account for nearly a quarter of worldwide deaths according to Johns Hopkins.
In the 2022 presidential election, Bolsonaro will be facing the former leftist president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. The election is expected to be a very close one. Brazil’s Supreme Court previously annulled two corruption convictions against da Silva and restored his political rights.