Explaining Brazil #103: Shopping for a new Health Minister

Amid the worst pandemic in a lifetime, President Jair Bolsonaro has gone after his own Health minister, stopping just shy of sacking him

Health authorities everywhere have to worry about how to care for the waves of patients that arrive at hospitals every day. The rising death toll. The lack of equipment for healthcare professionals. And the sheer lack of reliable data that would allow experts and policymakers to fully understand the magnitude of this crisis. In Brazil, Health Minister Luiz Henrique Mandetta has an additional worry most — if not all — of his counterparts don’t have: he has to deal with the ego of a president that acts based solely on his own hunches and who has no regard for scientific evidence.

Tensions between Mr. Mandetta and President Jair Bolsonaro have been brewing for weeks, and reached their peak on Monday — when word got out that Mr. Mandetta was about to be fired and that a new Health Minister had been chosen.

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Background reading:

  • The Brazilian Report has launched a live blog to follow the spread of Covid-19 in Brazil. It will be used to provide public-interest information on a daily basis about the developments of the coronavirus outbreak in Brazil. If you have doubts about the issue, do not hesitate to write to us at [email protected].
  • On Monday evening, the Health Ministry launched a plan to relax social isolation measures in states and cities where the healthcare system is not overburdened, starting on April 13. We explain why that is a bad idea
  • Our April 7 Daily Briefing explains what led President Bolsonaro to cut ties with his Health Minister, but not sacking him just yet.
  • Our April 1 Daily Briefing shows that, as the government delays, states jump into action in the Covid-19 fight.
  • The coronavirus has drastically upended Brazil’s 2020 municipal elections — and no one at this time can tell for sure how, and if, this vote will be able to take place.
  • Economists working under the federal government told reporter Brenno Grillo that Bolsa Família is the answer to Covid-19. But, as Euan Marshall showed early in March, the Jair Bolsonaro administration has slashed it.
  • In our March 18 Daily Briefing, economist Daniel Duque makes a case for a universal basic income policy as a palliative measure for the looming crisis (for premium subscribers).

Explaining Brazil is made by:

  • Gustavo Ribeiro, editor in chief of The Brazilian Report. He has extensive experience covering Brazilian politics. His work has been featured across Brazilian and French media outlets, including Veja, Época, Folha de S.Paulo, Médiapart, and Radio France Internationale.
  • Euan Marshall, editing. Euan is a journalist and translator who has lived in São Paulo, Brazil since 2011. Specializing in Brazilian soccer, politics and the connection between the two, his work has been published in The Telegraph, Al Jazeera, The Independent, among others.

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