Brazilian foreign, defense ministers resign on same day in setback for Bolsonaro


Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro on Monday lost two ministers when his combative Foreign Minister Ernesto Araujo stepped down over struggles to get coronavirus vaccines, sources said, and Defense Minister Fernando Azevedo e Silva unexpectedly quit.

The departure of two ministers in one day is a major blow to Bolsonaro, who is under growing pressure to address the pandemic more seriously and slow a second wave of infections that is pushing hospitals to the brink.

Araujo, a loyal ally of Bolsonaro, had been under pressure for weeks. Two government sources said he had tendered his resignation. He represents an ideological wing of the right-wing populist’s administration whose attacks against China, environmentalists and the left were increasingly seen as noisy distractions from tackling Brazil’s raging pandemic.

The departure of Azevedo e Silva was a surprise, given there were no rumors of his exit or rumblings of discontent. The president, a former army captain, has placed current and former military officials throughout all levels of his government – leading to concerns that the military’s reputation could suffer.

“During this time, I preserved the Armed Forces as institutions of state,” Azevedo e Silva wrote in a ministry statement. “I leave in the certainty of a mission accomplished.”

Earlier this month, Bolsonaro replaced Health Minister Eduardo Pazuello, an active duty general who had overseen most of the coronavirus response. He was widely blamed for a slow and patchy vaccine program.

Brazil’s foreign ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment about Araujo’s departure.

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