Former Health Minister of Brazil Eduardo Pazuello, now an active-duty general, is expected to face punishment for attending a far-right political rally in Rio de Janeiro, held for President Jair Bolsonaro. According to Vice President and military general Hamilton Mourao, Pazuello’s attendance directly violates the precedent set for the Brazilian military, which prohibits army commandos from political involvement. This denunciation has transpired in addition to recent scrutiny from a Senate commission over Pazuello’s negligence and failure to effectively manage the COVID-19 pandemic. After his ministry role was expunged in March due to escalating criticism, he rejoined the military service.
Vice President Hamilton Mourao criticized Pazuello’s debut with Bolsonaro at the rally, where they both appeared at a motorcycle demonstration and later together in a sound car. Acting in complete disregard of the city’s COVID-19 safety guidelines and recommendations, both Pazuello and Bolsonaro were seen without masks and closely congregated in a large crowd. As reported by Reuters, the Vice President voiced to journalists that Pazuello’s “appearance at that political demonstration can be considered a transgression of army regulations.” He added that the incident has been recognized as an internal matter and has since apologized to the military commanders.
The newly active general has found himself in hot water since questioning from Senators last week about his ethical standards and delay in securing the COVID-19 vaccine for Brazil. Brazil currently has the third-highest COVID-19 infection rate just behind the United States and India, surpassing approximately 16 million positive cases and 450,000 deaths last week. Despite hospitals and health care facilities being overwhelmed and on the brink of collapse, the government has thus far lacked an adequate response to assist localities.
Despite the country needing leadership that prioritizes the virus at this critical time, President Bolsonaro has continued to defy the pandemic. He held the anti-lockdown protest with his supporters in Rio de Janeiro, in objection to the restrictions that governors and mayors have imposed on citizens. Last week during a Senate inquiry, Pazuello defended Bolsonaro, refuting accusations against them that they delayed efforts to obtain vaccines for Brazil, and rather attempted to persuade its health ministry to recommend unproven remedies and cures. Their debut together at the rally further validates the reluctance and denial the former health minister and sitting president have about the virus’s legitimacy.
According to an Al Jazeera report, powerful opposition Senator Renan Calheiros publicly accused Pazuello of being dishonest during his two-day testimony on the inquiry. “It was evident that the witness’s mission at the CPI was not to enlighten the population or collaborate to find the truth, but rather to exempt the president.” During his ten-month position as health minister, Pazuello has been accused of failing to alleviate the oxygen crisis, promoting futile remedies for those infected, and delaying the influx of vaccines that presumably could have saved many lives. He has since been under intense criticism from citizens and the government, that he has needed to face the consequences of his poor management.
Pazuello’s failure as health minister is reflective of Bolsonaro’s political response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Vice President Mourao, however, has remained a voice of reason, often stating contradictory statements against the President and actively opposing his dismissive sentiment about the virus. Already under scrutiny, Mourao has advocated for additional punishment against Pazuello for his attendance at the far-right rally, suggesting that he could be transferred to reserve duty to curtail the problem. The pressure against Pazuello will continue to develop along with these circumstances, and additional actions will likely be taken, as well as a further review of his conduct and standards.
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