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This Is Brazil | Health, Military And Political Crisis

Remember when Eduardo Pazuello, former health minister did not show up at the parliamentary commission of inquiry? Well, much more has happened since then. 

For a start, he appeared for answering questions on May 19 and 20. The attorney general office requested, and the federal court of justice granted the former minister a habeas corpus, which conceded him the right to remain silent in case some of the questions could incriminate him.

Despite having this right, he could not lie. He said that the ministry did not recommend early treatment for fighting coronavirus. An app, launched for helping the diagnosis of the virus, the TrateCov, prescripted chloroquine even for children. Pazuello said it was hacked and released by a hacker. 

He also said that the whole oxygen crisis happening in Manaus only reached him on January 10, but a document of January 4, from the ministry itself and with the name of the minister said: “there is the imminent possibility of the collapse of the health system in 10 days”. 

About following orders from the president, like the one on not buying the CoronaVac vaccine, even after the health ministry manifested interest in it, he said “A speech on the internet is not an order. Bolsonaro never told me not to buy. He spoke publicly, but to the ministry or me, he never spoke”. The president, after hearing about the interest in the vaccines, published a video on social media clarifying that would not buy it. To be clear, Pazuello expressed, on the commission, that Bolsonaro lies on the internet, and that it is normal for a president.

And that is not the worst part yet. On May 23, while Bolsonaro carried out a motorcycle tour with his supporters in Rio de Janeiro, causing agglomeration, Pazuello was there, side by side with the president, while the latter gave a speech. It is important to remember that the former minister said to the commission that he always “took the same position: preventive measures, including the necessary social distancing in each situation. This was my position in all our communication actions”.

He, as an active general in the army, could not be a participant in any political manifestation, but there he was. If all followed the correct rules, Pazuello could face punishment ranging from a warning to disciplinary detention.

It is sad to say this, but since we are in present-day Brazil, nothing happened. Pushed by Bolsonaro, the army did not punish him, although the majority of high-ranking officials defended it, and archived the inquiry, maintaining it secret for the next 100 years. The army chief, Paulo Sérgio Nogueira de Oliveira, was put in a difficult position, according to a contact in the institution, who spoke to the newspaper Folha de S. Paulo, “If he accepts the chief’s wish and spares Pazuello, he will open the door to the politicization of the Armed Forces in an unequivocal way, and will also lose authority in front of his peers who are against it. On the other hand, if he punishes Pazuello, Paulo Sérgio may find himself in a situation in which his permanence in office will be unsustainable, leading to the second military crisis in two months”.

The fear, now, is that others in the army feel free to act like Eduardo Pazuello. And most importantly, with no consequences. Like the journalist Octavio Guedes remembered, years ago, while the military was discussing an act that suppressed the Brazilians during the dictatorship, the vice-president, Pedro Aleixo, said “President, the problem of a law like this is not you, nor those who rule the country with you. The problem is the guard on the corner”.

The journalist concluded, “after seeing Pazuello get on the political stage with Bolsonaro, surely Aleixo would update his sentence to: ‘The problem is not Pazuello, but what the guard on the corner will do with the general’s example”.

We can almost say that this is already happening. On May 29, protests against president Jair Bolsonaro happened in 213 cities in Brazil and 14 foreign cities. Those who attended demanded more vaccines, a new package of emergency aid of at least R$600, and rejected new cuts on the budget for the education ministry and, mainly the more than 460,000 deaths. The coverage of the press was less than satisfactory. On one of these, happening in Recife, capital of Pernambuco state, the police violently dispersed the protesters, causing two people to lose sight in one eye after being hit by rubber bullets. The governor said that this decision did not come from state security.

On May 31, a man was arrested under the National Security Law – a remnant of the dictatorship – after refusing to take off a sticker that said “Out genocidal Bolsonaro” out of his car.

All of this contributes to what Renato Sérgio Lima, president-director of the Brazilian Forum for Public Security, said: “several steps towards the deconstruction of the institutions were taken because we saw that this is no longer a phenomenon restricted to the lower ranks, but that it reaches the commands”. And this includes the lack of punishment of Pazuello.

What else is happening

Apparently, more than 80 emails from Pfizer were left unanswered. One letter arrived to the president on September 12 of 2020 about the decision of the government to whether or not to buy the vaccines the enterprise was offering. The reply did not give a decision. One of the offers was to sell them for 10 dollars, instead of the 20 that paid the United States and the European Union. The idea was to make Brazil a showcase of the vaccines and an excellent immunization program. The government of Jair Bolsonaro did not even bother to answer.

On June 10, president Bolsonaro said he would ask the minister of health to write an opinion to “dispense the use of the mask by those who are vaccinated or who have already been contaminated. To remove this symbol, which obviously has its uses for those who are infected”, once more leading against every recommendation until now.

No answer to the vaccine, but for soccer we have. Brazil accepted to host the America Cup. Colombia and Argentina, the original hosts, refused, the first because of all the tension and protests around the country, and the latter because of the sanitary crisis, the pandemic. Brazil has both.

Another crisis was installed – like we do not have those every day. The people were outraged by the decision, the players and the coach did not agree either. The president of the Brazilian soccer confederation was removed (because he was accused of sexual harassment), and the players decided to play while releasing a manifesto (that says they did not want to make this a political discussion. Like it was not one already).

Bolsonaro, as could not be otherwise, attacked Tite, the coach of the Brazilian team, almost interfering and asking him to be removed. Is important to remember! During the dictatorship, general Emílio Médici demanded that the coach of the team for the World Cup of 1970, João Saldanha, was removed.

It is funny how we always come back to times like these.

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The article above was edited by Gabriela Sartorato.  

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