Brazilian Defence Minister Fernando Azevedo e Silva announced his exit from far-right President Jair Bolsonaro’s administration Monday, following on the heels of the foreign and health ministers.
“I leave with this certainty: mission accomplished,” Azevedo e Silva said in a brief statement, without giving a reason for his surprise departure.
Azevedo e Silva, a 67-year-old army reserve general, had been in the post since Bolsonaro took office in January 2019.
His announcement came hours after Foreign Minister Ernesto Araujo submitted his resignation amid controversy over the government’s problems securing more Covid-19 vaccines.
The departure of two ministers in one day is a major blow to Bolsonaro, who is under growing pressure to address the pandemic more seriously and slow a second wave of infections that is pushing hospitals to the brink.
Araujo, a loyal ally of Bolsonaro, had been under pressure for weeks. Two government sources said he had tendered his resignation. He represents an ideological wing of the right-wing populist’s administration whose attacks against China, environmentalists and the left were increasingly seen as noisy distractions from tackling Brazil’s raging pandemic.
Brazil’s foreign ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment about Araujo’s departure.
In recent days, Araujo irked senior lawmakers who had become increasingly vocal in calling for him to be replaced. They were angered by his longstanding criticism of top trade partner China, a vaccine-producing superpower.
The diplomat’s esteem for former US President Donald Trump was also seen as an obstacle in persuading the Biden administration to free up supplies of US vaccine for Brazil.
Luís Fernando Serra, Brazil’s ambassador to France, Senator Fernando Collor de Mello and Flávio Rocha, a retired admiral who advises Bolsonaro, are all in the running to replace Araujo, sources said.
Last week, Bolsonaro also replaced former health minister Eduardo Pazuello, another army general, with cardiologist Marcelo Queiroga, his fourth health minister of the coronavirus pandemic.
The president, who has long defied expert advice on the pandemic, is facing mounting pressure to contain a deadly surge of Covid-19 in Brazil and secure more vaccines for the country’s 212 million people.
More than 312,000 people have died of Covid-19 in Brazil, according to official figures, the second-highest death toll worldwide after the United States.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP and REUTERS)