Military officers increasingly exasperated with interim Health Minister

interim health minister
Interim Health Minister Eduardo Pazuello speaking before the Senate

After Health Minister Nelson Teich announced his resignation on May 15 — making him the second health minister to abdicate the post since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic — President Jair Bolsonaro appointed Army General Eduardo Pazuello as a stopgap solution until a proper replacement could be found.

Now, nearly two months since the appointment of Mr. Pazuello, Mr. Bolsonaro has yet to announce a definitive successor at the Health Ministry, while military officers grow increasingly frustrated with the presence of Mr. Pazuello — who has no background in the health field — as the head of the department.

As reported by newspaper Folha de São Paulo, top Army officials are concerned with the poor management of the Covid-19 pandemic crisis by Mr. Pazuello and how it negatively reflects on military organizations as a consequence.

On Saturday, Supreme Court Justice Gilmar Mendes likened the role of military officers in charge of the Health Ministry to contributing to a “genocide” in Brazil, due to their ineffectiveness in combating the spread of the virus, with daily death tolls still in four digits.   

As previously covered by The Brazilian Report, the arrival of Mr. Pazuello has brought an exodus of health officials in the ministry that were promptly replaced by military officers, many with dubious backgrounds in public health management.

Currently, the Health Ministry has 28 military men in office positions, which brings a concerning link between the ministry’s miscues and the top brass of the Armed Forces, resulting in a spillover of criticism to the military. Some officers believe that Mr. Pazuello has overstayed his welcome and that a suitable replacement — with a credible health background — should be appointed to the ministry as soon as possible.

President Bolsonaro has yet to come up with a new name for the unenviable task as Brazil’s top health official. Previous health ministers have found it extremely difficult to reconcile their duties with the president’s disdain for scientific data and his unyielding support for anti-malaria drug chloroquine as a ‘cure’ for Covid-19, despite mounting evidence against its effectiveness.

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