Bolsonaro removes his health minister to end social distancing in Brazil
Former Brazilian Health Minister Henrique Mandetta announced on Twitter that he had been dismissed.
Of all South American countries, Brazil has taken the fewest measures to contain the COVID-19 pandemic and has the most reported cases, with over 30,000 infections.
On 26 February, Brazil confirmed the first case of COVID-19 in Latin America, and since then there has been a battle over how to contain the disease.
As a federal state, multiple governors have taken curfew and quarantine measures that President Jair Bolsonaro has consistently resisted. The army, the legislative branch of government and the cabinet of ministers themselves have also been involved in this tug-of-war.
The uncertainty and lack of confidence in the government that this has produced has been such that organized crime in the favelas of Rio de Janeiro has arrogated to itself the right to impose a curfew as a health measure.
On the part of the cabinet of ministers, the main resistance that Bolsonaro had encountered came precisely from his Minister of Health, Henrique Mandetta, who from the beginning was in favor of quarantines and social distancing as containment measures.
While Bolsonaro continued to call his followers to large mobilizations and insisted that the country should continue working and could not stop, Mandetta held daily press conferences explaining how to contain the epidemic based on the scientists' recommendations.
This made the relationship between the president and the minister tense and deteriorating, to the point that Mandetta even stated in early April that he would only leave his post if he was removed by the president, because Brazil was the patient he had been entrusted with and a doctor does not abandon his patient.
If Mandetta resisted in his position from February until yesterday it was because he had the support of the military, who took away his backing after Mandetta declared in a TV Globo interview that he hoped that he and the president could have a clear and unified discourse. This was interpreted by the armed forces as insubordination.
At two in the afternoon Mandetta announced on his Twitter account that he had been dismissed by the president.
The announcement was followed by a chorus of pots and pans and shouts of "Out Bolsonaro" and the immediate inauguration of oncologist Nelson Teich as Brazil's new Minister of Health. During the same ceremony, Bolsonaro announced that he and the new minister were planning how to reopen the country and lift the quarantines imposed by the governors throughout the country.