The changes come after President Jair Bolsonaro, under pressure from the COVID crisis, ordered a sweeping cabinet reshuffle.
Brazil appointed new commanders of its armed forces, a day after The government of President Jair Bolsonaro has said he will replace army, navy and air force leaders in an upheaval that raised concerns about the far-right leader’s interference in the military.
At a press conference on Wednesday, Defense Minister Walter Brago Netto announced that Paulo Sergio Nogueira de Oliveira would take over the army, Almir Garnier the navy and Carlos Almeida Baptista Junior the air force.
It was Braga Netto’s first press conference since his appointment to the post on Monday in a radical cabinet reshuffle.
Announcing the names on Wednesday – the anniversary of a 1964 coup that led to 21 years of military rule in Brazil – Braga Netto said the armed forces remained true to their constitutional mission.
“The army has not been deemed insufficient in the past and will not be deemed insufficient when the country needs it,” he said.
Political analysts have raised questions and concerns about this week’s changes, however.
“Since 1985, we have not heard from such a clear intervention by the president vis-à-vis the armed forces,” Carlos Melo, professor of political science at Insper University in Sao Paulo, told reporters. AP news agency this week.
But the three military officers have a long service, allaying fears among some analysts that Bolsonaro is trying to name more junior staff who might be more willing to politicize the military.
Bolsonaro faces widespread pressure to explain his government’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has killed more than 317,000 people to date, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
The president, who downplayed the threat of the virus and opposed public health restrictions aimed at stemming the spread of infections, also replaced his justice and foreign ministers this week.
It swore his fourth Minister of Health since the start of the pandemic at the beginning of the month.
Also on Wednesday, the head of the World Health Organization’s body for the Americas warned that the surge in coronavirus cases in Latin America could be much worse than that observed last year.
“Without preventive action, our region could face an even greater upsurge than the previous one,” said Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) director Carissa Etienne during a press briefing.
She said the surge in cases is crushing the Brazilian health network, where intensive care units have over 80% capacity in all but two states.
Meanwhile, Brazil, which has struggled to obtain the COVID-19 vaccines to inoculate its population of 212 million, approved Johnson & Johnson’s single-dose vaccine for emergency use on Wednesday.
Federal health regulator Anvisa said its board of directors has unanimously approved the vaccine for use on priority groups, including healthcare providers and the elderly.
Brazil signed an agreement with the U.S. company earlier this month to provide 38 million doses of the vaccine, but doses won’t start arriving until August.
This week, Health Minister Marcelo Queiroga said he plans to ask the United States to help speed up the delivery of Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccines.
Brazil expects to receive 100 million doses of the vaccine this year, but the first delivery of two million doses is not expected until May.