Bolsonaro “overhauls” military brass in a bid to strengthen administration

Brasília, April 1, 2021: In the middle of the biggest crisis in office, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro  appointed new army, navy and air force chiefs one day after announcing their predecessors’ departures, as the far-right leader weathers the biggest crisis of his administration.

The new defense minister, General Walter Braga Netto, presented Army General Paulo Sergio Nogueira de Oliveira, Navy Admiral Almir Garnier and Air Force commander Brigadier Carlos Almeida Baptista Jr at a brief ceremony.

Braga Netto said they would all be “faithful to their constitutional missions of defending the homeland, guaranteeing constitutional powers and guaranteeing democratic freedoms.”

Bolsonaro has overhauled his government in the face of mounting criticism for an explosion of Covid-19 deaths, replacing his foreign, defense and justice ministers, along with his chief of staff, the attorney general and the military’s top brass.

On Wednesday, the country ended its deadliest month of the coronavirus crisis with more than 66,570 deaths.

The new military commanders are replacing Army General Edson Pujol, Navy Admiral Ilques Barbosa and Air Force Lieutenant-Brigadier Antonio Carlos Bermudes. No reason was given for their departure, but analysts say the three chiefs were dismayed by Bolsonaro’s surprise dismissal of former defense minister Fernando Azevedo.

Azevedo himself resigned saying he was “uncomfortable with Bolsonaro’s use of the military for political ends,”

Bolsonaro, a former army captain, is openly nostalgic for Brazil’s 1964-1985 military dictatorship and boasts of having military backing. Bolsonaro’s hard-line base has fanned talk of reinstalling military rule with him at the top.

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