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World

Brazil military chiefs exit in new turmoil for Bolsonaro

  • Some Brazilian media reported the trio had resigned in protest at Bolsonaro's surprise decision to replace defense minister Fernando Azevedo.
Published March 31, 2021

BRASÍLIA: President Jair Bolsonaro will replace all three commanders of Brazil's armed forces, his government said Tuesday, the latest upheaval in Brasilia as the far-right leader braces against mounting criticism over an explosion of Covid-19 deaths.

The exit of the army, navy and air force chiefs came a day after Bolsonaro overhauled his cabinet, replacing the foreign, defence and justice ministers as well as his chief of staff, attorney general and government secretary.

Last week, he also installed his fourth health minister of the pandemic.

The turmoil comes as the government struggles to control a deadly surge of Covid-19 in Brazil, which has already killed more than 317,000 people in the country -- pushing many hospitals to the brink of collapse -- with a record of 3,780 deaths in the last 24 hours alone.

Bolsonaro, who comes up for re-election in October 2022, faces sliding popularity and growing pressure over his handling of the pandemic, including from key allies in Congress and the business world.

His attacks on lockdowns, face masks and vaccines have become fodder for critics, with Brazil ranking only behind the United States in number of cases and fatalities.

The defence ministry did not give a reason for the departure of Army General Edson Pujol, Navy Admiral Ilques Barbosa and Air Force Lieutenant-Brigadier Antonio Carlos Bermudes.

Some Brazilian media reported the trio had resigned in protest at Bolsonaro's surprise decision to replace defence minister Fernando Azevedo.

"For the first time in history, the commanders of all three branches of the armed forces presented their joint resignation in disagreement with the president," said newspaper Folha de Sao Paulo.

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