Brazil: Political crisis and Covid surge rock Bolsonaro

Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro is facing the biggest crisis of his presidency after the heads of the army, navy and air force all quit and the country recorded its highest daily Covid-19 death toll.

The unprecedented resignation of the defence chiefs is being seen as a protest at attempts by Mr Bolsonaro to exert undue control over the military.

Mr. Bolsonaro’s popularity has plummeted over his response to Covid-19. Nearly 314,000 people have died, with a new daily record of 3,780 on Tuesday.

The record death figures come amid a political crisis which has seen the foreign minister, the defence minister and the heads of the army, navy and air force leave office all leave office within days of each other.

It is reportedly the first time in Brazilian history that the chiefs of the army, navy and air force have stood down together over a disagreement with the president.

The three men – Gen Edson Leal Pujol, Adm Ilques Barbosa and Lt Brig Antonio Carlos Bermudez – resigned on Tuesday, a day after the president’s Foreign Minister Ernesto Araújo was forced to quit following heavy criticism by lawmakers.

Mr. Araújo was accused of poorly handling relations with China, India, and the US, which lawmakers said resulted in Brazil having insufficient quantities of Covid-19 vaccine.

Defence Minister Fernando Azevedo e Silva then quickly followed suit, prompting a cabinet reshuffle. The defense minister clashed with Mr. Bolsonaro over the issue of the armed forces’ loyalty, which he said should be directed to upholding the constitution rather than supporting the president personally. The BBC’s Latin America correspondent, Will Grant, says Mr. Bolsonaro is now facing his biggest political crisis since taking office in January 2019.


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