Brazilian Health Minister Eduardo Pazuello will be fired after an unfortunate 10-month term during which more than 260,000 Brazilians have died from a coronavirus outbreak that his government is accused of catastrophic mismanagement.
When the far-right president, Jair Bolsonaro, named the army general his interim health minister on May 16 last year, nearly 15,000 Brazilians had died of Covid-19. Ten months later, the death toll has risen to nearly 280,000 and the largest nation in South America has entered the deadliest chapter of its epidemic.
Pazuello, whose lousy performance earned him the nickname Pesadello (Nightmare), was Bolsonaro’s third health minister of the crisis, after two predecessors withdrew due to disagreements over the president’s stance towards Covid-19. From the beginning, Bolsonaro has trivialized the disease, which both he and Pazuello contracted, as a “little flu” and torpedoed efforts to contain it through social distancing, lockdowns or mass vaccination.
Pazuello, a 58-year-old man with no public health background, had made it clear that the decision-maker at the Health Ministry was Bolsonaro, not him. “It’s simple: one gives the orders and the other obeys,” he said of his relationship with the president last October, after Bolsonaro dismissed his attempt to buy 46 million injections of the CoronaVac vaccine produced in China.
Still, it is Pazuello who now faces the most immediate risk of sanctions for his response to the health emergency. Earlier this year, he was put under investigation for his possible role in failing to prevent a calamitous collapse of the health service in the Amazon city of Manaus, where hospitals were left without oxygen for patients.
Few believe that Pazuello’s departure will herald a dramatic shift in government behavior toward what is considered the worst public health crisis in Brazil’s history. Ludhmila Hajjar, a respected cardiologist who was reportedly offered the job by Bolsonaro, claimed that she had turned down the opportunity because she believed in science.
“The outlook looks really bleak. [If nothing changes] Brazil is going to reach 500,000 or 600,000 deaths, ”Hajjar warned in a television interview after rejecting Bolsonaro’s offer. During a meeting the day before, Bolsonaro it was reported that he asked Hajjar: “You are not going to screw me by closing the northeast and missing the [presidential] choice, right?
Reports Monday night claimed that Bolsonaro would appoint another cardiologist named Marcelo Queiroga the next day.
Bolsonaro told supporters outside the presidential residence on Tuesday: “The way I see things, he has everything he needs to do a good job, continuing everything Pazuello has done so far.”
He affirmed that the new minister would signal a new “aggressive” stance towards the epidemic.
Writing In the Folha de São Paulo newspaper on Monday, political columnist Ricardo Melo said: “Clearly, Doctor Nightmare… it serves only to fill cemeteries… [But] the only way to prevent more Covid deaths … is to remove Bolsonaro from power. “
The former Brazilian Minister of Health, José Gomes Temporão, said: “The problem is not the Minister of Health, the big problem right now is the president himself.”
“The truth is that the president is the minister of health … he is the one who chose to fight against science and the guidelines of the World Health Organization … So, for something to change, the president would have to change his vision of the disease, of science, of this false dichotomy between the economy and the public. health, ”added Temporão.
Temporão said he believed that political pressure was now the only thing that could force Bolsonaro to change course, particularly from former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. Lula roared back onto the political scene last week after a Supreme Court judge restored his political rights and used his response speech to rebuke Bolsonaro’s “stupid” and inept response to the tragedy.
“Lula proved that the emperor had no clothes,” Temporão said.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism