Brazil's pandemic rages while military
chiefs exit in new turmoil for Bolsonaro
Brazil on surpassed 300,000 coronavirus deaths and more than three million cases of infection.
- Army, Navy and Air Force chiefs resign
- Covid-related deaths soar past 300,000
By Nathan Walters and Patricia Garip/Argus
Petroleumworld 03 31 2021
Brazil's top military commanders have resigned in a deepening schism with President Jair Bolsonaro as the Covid-19 pandemic rages across the country.
Army commander Edson Leal Pujol, navy commander Ilques Barbosa, and air force commander Antonio Carlos Bermudez stepped down to protest Bolsonaro's sudden removal yesterday of Fernando Azevedo e Silva as defense minister in favor of army general Walter Souza Braga Netto.
Bolsonaro announced five other cabinet changes yesterday in a bid to mend fences with congressional leaders targeting him over his mishandling of the pandemic response, on top of a host of legal cases involving the president and his family.
Brazil's vaccination campaign is only crawling as Covid-related deaths soar past 300,000, one year after Bolsonaro began to downplay the severity of the pandemic.
Bolsonaro, a former army captain who took office in January 2019, embraced military appointments from the beginning of his administration. Among the strategic posts held by current and former military are the mines and energy ministry and oil regulatory agency ANP. The incoming chief executive of state-controlled Petrobras also hails from the military ranks. His appointment in February prompted the resignations of several company board members and key executives .
But relations with the military have soured as Bolsonaro maneuvers to shore up his political support. Looming in the foreground is popular former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who recently shook off most judicial restrictions to potentially challenge Bolsonaro for re-election in October 2022.
The political turmoil comes as Petrobras moves to sell its first refinery to Abu Dhabi investment fund Mubadala. The company recently approved the $1.65bn transaction, but Mubadala has not commented on when it will close.
The sale is part of a $25bn-35bn divestment campaign that is critical to Petrobras' strategy of cutting debt and focusing on pre-salt crude production.
In a note announcing the decision of the three commanders today, the defense ministry said both Braga Netto and Azevedo e Silva were present at this morning's meetings and new commanders would be named shortly.
In his resignation letter submitted last night, Azevedo e Silva said he "preserved the armed forces as institutions of the state" during his two years in the role, alluding to perceived political pressure from Brasilia.