Brazilian Defense Minister Fernando Azevedo e Silva announced his resignation from the administration of right-wing President Jair Bolsonaro on Monday after the Foreign and Health Ministers.
“I leave with this certainty: the mission is complete,” Azevedo e Silva said in a brief statement without giving a reason for his surprise resignation.
Azevedo e Silva, a 67-year-old general reserve general, had been in the post since Bolsonaro took office in January 2019.
His announcement came hours after Foreign Minister Ernesto Araujo resigned amid controversy over the government’s problem securing more Covid-19 vaccines.
The departure of two ministers in one day is a major blow for Bolsonaro, who is under growing pressure to tackle the pandemic more seriously and slow down a second wave of infections that is driving hospitals to the brink.
Araujo, a loyal ally of Bolsonaro, had been under pressure for several weeks. Two government sources said he had submitted his resignation. He represents an ideological wing of the right-wing populist administration whose attacks on China, environmental activists and the left were increasingly seen as noisy distractions from tackling Brazil’s raging pandemic.
The Brazilian Foreign Ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Araujo’s resignation.
In recent days, Araujo has angered leading lawmakers who had become increasingly vocal in demanding his replacement. They became angry over his long-standing criticism of top trading partner China, a vaccine-producing superpower.
The diplomat’s appreciation of former US President Donald Trump was also seen as an obstacle to persuading the Biden administration to release US vaccine supplies to Brazil.
Luís Fernando Serra, Brazil’s ambassador to France, Senator Fernando Collor de Mello and Flávio Rocha, a retired admiral advising Bolsonaro, are all about 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 for the coronavirus pandemic.
The president, who has long defied expert advice on the pandemic, is facing increasing pressure to keep a deadly wave of Covid-19 in Brazil and secure more vaccines for the country’s 212 million people.
More than 312,000 people have died from Covid-19 in Brazil, according to official figures, the second highest number of deaths worldwide after the United States.
( Jowharwith AFP and REUTERS)