Brazil appoints new army chiefs as coup fears rise

Photo: AP Jair Bolsonaro

Brazil has made hard efforts to ease mounting pressure on president Jair Bolsonaro by appointing new chiefs for key army command posts, Reuters reported. The country sank in unprecedented political crisis as Bolsonaro tried to intervene in the army command and key figures resigned. Bolsonaro is one of the biggest Covid-19 skeptics which lead to devastating results for Brazil. The country is unanimous leader as far as death toll from the virus is concerned.

Paulo Sergio Nogueira de Oliveira will take over the army, Almir Garnier the navy and Carlos Almeida Baptista Júnior the air force, said Defense Minister Walter Braga Netto in his first news conference since assuming his new role this week. As he announced the names, Braga Netto said the armed forces remained faithful to their constitutional mission. “The military has not been found wanting in the past and will not be found wanting when the country needs it,” he said.

All three military officers have lengthy service, easing fears among some analysts that Bolsonaro might choose more junior personnel more willing to politicize the armed forces.

Nogueira de Oliveira, who was the army’s top health official, is a surprise choice after he drew Bolsonaro’s scorn for publicly celebrating how the force had managed to keep Covid-19 death rates to 0.13% - well below the 2.5% among the general population. He also advocated social distancing, urged mask use and warned of a likely third wave of infections.

Bolsonaro in stark contrast has railed against lockdowns, sowed doubts on vaccines and pushed unproven “miracle” cures. The naming of the new commanders comes on the anniversary of Brazil’s 1964 coup, which led to 21 years of military rule in the country.

The abrupt changes in the armed forces, following a shock Cabinet reshuffle on Monday, underline the scale of the political and public health crises afflicting Brazil, which is now the global epicenter of the Covid-19 pandemic.

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