Former Health Minister off the hook for Covid oxygen crisis

pazuello Covid oxygen crisis
Photo: Isaac Fontana/Shutterstock

Eduardo Pazuello, who served as Brazil’s Health Minister between May 2020 and March 2022 — overseeing one of the world’s biggest Covid-19 debacles —, was cleared in a malfeasance investigation. He was accused of allowing the state of Amazonas to run out of oxygen supplies during the peak of the Delta variant spread and having done nothing to avoid it. Multiple Covid patients died of asphyxia while awaiting treatment.

A federal judge considered that, under a new misconduct law, it became impossible to prove intent from Mr. Pazuello — who claimed he was not aware of the extent of the crisis in Amazonas.

Last year, Congress passed (with support from the government) a law changing the legal notion of misconduct in office. Now, to prove the existence of misconduct in office, it must be proved that not only did a defendant commit an unlawful act, but that they did so with intent — which can be hard to prove. 

With Mr. Pazuello at the helm, Brazil’s Health Ministry went against measures to fight the coronavirus that it had previously advocated (such as lockdown-like orders) — in order to comply with President Jair Bolsonaro’s view of the pandemic. Brazil has tallied over 664,000 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic.

In return for his loyalty, Mr. Pazuello has gained support from Mr. Bolsonaro to run for a congressional seat for the state of Rio de Janeiro.