Military chiefs exit in new turmoil for Bolsonaro after Cabinet shake-up

WION Web Team
Rio De Janeiro  Published: Mar 30, 2021, 09:18 PM(IST)

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro (file photo). Photograph:( AFP )

Story highlights

Bolsonaro tweeted on Monday that he was shifting three other Cabinet ministers to new posts, chief of staff, defence minister and attorney general, and naming a new justice and public security minister and a new government secretary

The commanders of Brazil's army, navy and air force will be replaced, the defence ministry said Tuesday, a day after President Jair Bolsonaro overhauled his cabinet with six substitutions, including a new defence minister.

"The decision was communicated in a meeting on Tuesday with incoming defence minister (Walter Souza) Braga Netto and outgoing minister Fernando Azevedo," it said in a brief statement that did not give a reason for their departure.

Amid a slide in his popularity, President Jair Bolsonaro had earlier shaken up the Cabinet, including replacing Brazil's foreign minister, who was widely criticised for an anti-globalism stance and accused by some of aggravating the pandemic by alienating vaccine suppliers. 

Bolsonaro tweeted on Monday that he was shifting three other Cabinet ministers to new posts, chief of staff, defence minister and attorney general, and naming a new justice and public security minister and a new government secretary. 

But the biggest change was moving Ernesto Araújo out as foreign minister. Ernesto Araújo had most recently been under fire for comments and actions that critics said impeded faster access to coronavirus vaccines as the coronavirus batters Brazil. 

It was just the latest Cabinet turmoil for the embattled Bolsonaro. The president in mid-March replaced the health minister, whose tenure coincided with most of Brazil's 314,000 Covid-19 deaths and became the target of fierce criticism. In February, Bolsonaro tapped a retired army general to take over state-run oil behemoth Petrobras, seeking to appeal to his constituency of truck drivers, who had threatened to strike over fuel price increases. 

Araújo was subjected to a nearly five-hour Senate hearing last week to defend his ministry's actions during the pandemic. Center-right Sen Tasso Jereissati told the minister that he no longer had the standing to remain in the post and that his exit would end the help end the crisis. 

Maurício Santoro, professor of political science and international relations at the University of the State of Rio de Janeiro, said the Senate attacks on Araújo became too overpowering for Bolsonaro to withstand. 

"The vaccine issue was the spark that lit the fire," Santoro said. "The general context is Araújo failed in all the most important tasks he had to do as a minister. Brazil is facing bad political dialogue with its biggest trade partners, China, the US, the EU and Argentina, all for different reasons. 

The new foreign minister is Carlos França, who like Araújo is a career diplomat. But unlike Araújo, França isn't a follower of far-right ideologue Olavo de Carvalho, the newspaper O Globo reported. He is an adviser to Bolsonaro and former ceremonial chief at the presidential palace and is considered to be pragmatic rather than ideological. 

(With inputs from agencies) 

Read in App