Health ministers

The four Health Ministers of the apocalypse

Brazil is not the only Latin American country to have lost control of the coronavirus pandemic. But it is the only nation in the region to be called a “global threat” by the World Health Organization and renowned epidemiologists. A shocking 116 countries around the world have slapped some form of travel restriction on people arriving from Brazil — only South Africa has more. 

Indeed, President Jair Bolsonaro’s decision to dismiss Health Minister Eduardo Pazuello this week gives a good indication of just how badly the country has handled the crisis. The incoming Marcelo Queiroga will be Brazil’s fourth Health Minister since the beginning of the pandemic last year.

But what really underlines the chaos is why President Bolsonaro decided to swap the country’s top health official during the deadly pandemic. Instead of seeking to improve the Covid-19 response by bringing in new personnel, the reasons for getting rid of Luiz Henrique Mandetta, Nelson Teich, and now Mr. Pazuello were purely egotistical and political.

In fact, Mr. Mandetta was binned for doing too much to contain the coronavirus spread. A supporter of broad isolation measures and social distancing — and opposed to touting unproven treatments such as chloroquine — Mr. Mandetta was seen as getting too big for his boots, and the president fired him.

Nelson Teich came in, but was gone within a month. Also unwilling to support Mr. Bolsonaro’s coronavirus denialism, he didn’t get on with the president and was very quick to be shown the door.

Then came Army General Eduardo Pazuello, a loyal soldier and President Bolsonaro’s ideal health minister. And now, after over 300 days of gross incompetence, following orders, and overseeing the biggest health disaster in Brazil’s history, Pazuello’s dismissal had nothing to do with his failures as Health Minister. In fact, the reasons for his sacking were political, to appease Mr. Bolsonaro’s allies in Congress.

As far as Marcelo Queiroga is concerned, we won’t be holding our breath. 

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