D.he “shelf life” of Brazilian health ministers is, to put it bluntly, hardly longer than that of a corona vaccine. For the third time since the outbreak of the pandemic, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has replaced the head of what is currently probably the most important ministry. The new health minister is the 55-year-old doctor Marcelo Queiroga. He’ll do a good job, said Bolsonaro.
Queiroga replaces the previous Minister and Army General Eduardo Pazuello. Pazuello took over the office last May, initially temporarily and later for a longer period, after his predecessor resigned after less than a month and his predecessor was in turn dismissed by Bolsonaro. In General Pazuello, Bolsonaro had found a docile “soldier” with no medical background who took his line.
Too great a difference
However, Pazuello was recently criticized. Among other things, he is accused of having reacted too late when the oxygen ran out in the Amazon metropolis of Manaus in January. In this case, there are even investigations against Pazuello. It was also recently revealed that his ministry had rejected an offer from Pfizer last year to purchase millions of doses of vaccine that would have been available in December. The government had previously been accused of failing to procure vaccines.
In the past few days, the pressure on Bolsonaro from Congress has increased. In view of the record high numbers of infections and the collapse of the health system in several states, the powerful bloc of center-right parties, on which Bolsonaro is politically dependent, considered a change of minister of health to be urgently needed. The preferred candidate was actually cardiologist Ludhmila Hajjar. She was in the capital Brasília for talks at the weekend, but did not accept the post. The differences between her and Bolsonaro regarding fighting the pandemic and the necessary measures were too great. Hajjar also felt the resistance from the Bolsonaro camp in other ways. When her name came up, she was massively threatened and defamed on social networks.
Bolsonaro is on the waiting list
The first two health ministers under Bolsonaro also had differences with the president. Both had criticized him because he had spoken out against a mask requirement and against contact restrictions and because he had campaigned for the treatment of corona patients with the ineffective drug hydroxychloroquine. The new Health Minister Queiroga, chosen by Bolsonaro, is politically close to the President and is considered a confidante of Senator Flávio Bolsonaro, the son of the President. Queiroga is not an advocate of the “preventive treatment” with the active ingredient chloroquine and other ineffective drugs that Bolsonaro and his supporters advertise. But he rejects drastic measures such as lockdowns – to the annoyance of most governors in the country. Congress must now come to terms with the new man in office.
Brazil is at its most dramatic point in the pandemic to date a year after the outbreak. The country has been recording new highs every day for days: Recently, more Brazilians have died from the consequences of a corona infection than ever before. An influential MP spoke of Bolsonaro’s “last chance” given the situation. It would be more likely to discuss his successor than a fifth health minister. Bolsonaro got the message. After he had repeatedly expressed himself critical of vaccinations in the past few months, he is now said to have entered a waiting list.
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