Brazil health official quits, Bolsonaro expected to fire minister

By Lisandra Paraguassu BRASILIA (Reuters) - A senior Brazilian health official resigned on Wednesday as expectations mounted that President Jair Bolsonaro would soon fire his health minister over disagreements on how to handle the coronavirus outbreak spreading across the country.

Reuters April 16, 2020 00:11:48 IST
Brazil health official quits, Bolsonaro expected to fire minister

Brazil health official quits Bolsonaro expected to fire minister

By Lisandra Paraguassu

BRASILIA (Reuters) - A senior Brazilian health official resigned on Wednesday as expectations mounted that President Jair Bolsonaro would soon fire his health minister over disagreements on how to handle the coronavirus outbreak spreading across the country.

The Health Ministry confirmed the resignation of Wanderson de Oliveira, secretary of health vigilance, who had been leading the fight against the epidemic. In a note to his team seen by Reuters, Oliveira said his boss, Health Minister Luiz Henrique Mandetta would likely be fired "in coming hours or days."

Mandetta told his aides on Tuesday evening that Bolsonaro is likely to fire him this week, according to two people familiar with the matter. The minister told his team he planned to remain in the job until Bolsonaro had chosen his replacement, according to the sources, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Bolsonaro and Mandetta have been at odds over the handling of the coronavirus epidemic for weeks, as the president played down the gravity of the outbreak, touted unproven drugs and attacked governors over lockdown orders.

Mandetta emerged from relative obscurity with technocratic daily briefings presenting the latest science, stressing the need for social distancing measures and earning praise from across the political spectrum.

The health ministry's response to the epidemic was rated "good" or "great" by 76% of Brazilians surveyed by pollster Datafolha this month. Bolsonaro got the same answers from just 33% of those surveyed.

More than 1,500 people have died of COVID-19 in Brazil, out of more than 25,000 confirmed cases of the respiratory disease.

After dodging what many expected would be a firing last week, Mandetta added to tensions in a Sunday TV interview. He urged the government to speak with a unified voice, effectively calling out Bolsonaro for downplaying the threat ahead of what may be the two toughest months for the outbreak.

Vice President Hamilton Mourao said on Tuesday that Mandetta had "crossed the line", but suggested he should not be removed immediately from office.

After days without commenting on Mandetta, Bolsonaro told supporters on his arrival to the presidential palace that he expected to "sort out the health situation," without making a direct reference to his minister.

(Reporting by Lisandra Paraguassu; Writing by Gabriela Mello; Editing by Brad Haynes and Alistair Bell)

This story has not been edited by Firstpost staff and is generated by auto-feed.

Updated Date:

TAGS:

also read

France, Germany to agree to NATO role against Islamic State - sources
| Reuters
World

France, Germany to agree to NATO role against Islamic State - sources | Reuters

By Robin Emmott and John Irish | BRUSSELS/PARIS BRUSSELS/PARIS France and Germany will agree to a U.S. plan for NATO to take a bigger role in the fight against Islamic militants at a meeting with President Donald Trump on Thursday, but insist the move is purely symbolic, four senior European diplomats said.The decision to allow the North Atlantic Treaty Organization to join the coalition against Islamic State in Syria and Iraq follows weeks of pressure on the two allies, who are wary of NATO confronting Russia in Syria and of alienating Arab countries who see NATO as pushing a pro-Western agenda."NATO as an institution will join the coalition," said one senior diplomat involved in the discussions. "The question is whether this just a symbolic gesture to the United States

China's Xi says navy should become world class
| Reuters
World

China's Xi says navy should become world class | Reuters

BEIJING Chinese President Xi Jinping on Wednesday called for greater efforts to make the country's navy a world class one, strong in operations on, below and above the surface, as it steps up its ability to project power far from its shores.China's navy has taken an increasingly prominent role in recent months, with a rising star admiral taking command, its first aircraft carrier sailing around self-ruled Taiwan and a new aircraft carrier launched last month.With President Donald Trump promising a US shipbuilding spree and unnerving Beijing with his unpredictable approach on hot button issues including Taiwan and the South and East China Seas, China is pushing to narrow the gap with the U.S. Navy.Inspecting navy headquarters, Xi said the navy should "aim for the top ranks in the world", the Defence Ministry said in a statement about his visit."Building a strong and modern navy is an important mark of a top ranking global military," the ministry paraphrased Xi as saying.