Military officers tighten their grip on Brazil’s Health Ministry

Military officers tighten their grip on Brazil's Health Ministry
Brazil’s Deputy Health Minister Eduardo Pazuello

As this live blog reported earlier, state health authorities — as well as members of Congress — see newly instated Health Minister Nelson Teich as an empty coat figure. According to political insiders, the strings are being pulled by Mr. Teich’s deputy, Army General Eduardo Pazuello. That impression is heightened by the fact that the government’s military wing is set to appoint five other names to key positions within the department.

The list includes handing the Logistics Department — responsible for purchasing drugs and medical inputs — to Colonel Alexandre Martinelli Cerqueira. The sector has an annual budget of BRL 10 billion (USD 1.76 billion) and has been in the spotlight since the beginning of the Covid-19 crisis. During Brazil’s “state of public calamity,” the department is allowed to bypass public bidding rules and handpick its contractors.

Military officers believe they will be able to provide more efficiency to the department, which has been slow in getting key equipment and infrastructure to local health units. In recent weeks, it has delivered only 17 percent of the promised figure of intensive care beds, 3 percent of ventilators, and 20 percent of test kits.