BRASÍLIA: Far-right President Jair Bolsonaro installed an army general with no medical experience as Brazil’s third health minister of the coronavirus pandemic Wednesday, four months after giving him the job on an interim basis.
Bolsonaro, who has downplayed the virus as a “little flu,“ named General Eduardo Pazuello to the post in May after falling out with his two previous health ministers over how to respond to the pandemic.
Unlike his predecessors, Doctors Luiz Henrique Mandetta and Nelson Teich, Pazuello, 57, has complied with Bolsonaro’s views on how to respond to the pandemic, including by recommending doctors prescribe hydroxychloroquine against Covid-19, despite a lack of evidence for the controversial drug’s effectiveness.
“We had to learn on the job, change the wheel on the car while it was moving. The responsibility was enormous, but we had total freedom to implement the necessary measures,“ Pazuello said at his swearing-in ceremony in Brasilia.
Bolsonaro, who presided, brandished a box of hydroxychloroquine.
“Studies show around 30% of (Covid-19) deaths could be avoided if hydroxychloroquine were prescribed early,“ he said, without citing evidence for the claim, which in fact flies in the face of numerous studies.
He also renewed his attacks on state governors who imposed lockdown measures, saying they “succumbed to the panic spread by the news media.”
Brazil, a country of 212 million people, has the second-highest death toll in the pandemic after the United States, with more than 134,000 people killed.
Bolsonaro, a former army captain, now has 11 military officers in his 23-member cabinet. — AFP