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The leaders of the Brazilian Armed Forces left as Bolsonaro sought their support

Rio de Janeiro (AP) – The leaders of all three branches of the Brazilian Armed Forces on Tuesday resigned jointly after replacing President rs Bolsonaro’s defense minister, sparking widespread military diversion to serve the president’s political interests.

The Ministry of Defense reported the resignations, which were clearly unprecedented since the end of military rule 36 years ago, in a statement issued without explanation. Replacements are not named. But analysts fear that the president, under pressure, will move to gain more control over the army.

“We have not heard of such a clear intervention by the president in the armed forces since 1985,” said Carlos Melo, a professor of political science at Insper University in Sao Paulo.

Bolsonaro, a former conservative army captain who has often praised Brazil’s former military dictatorship in 2019. Since taking office in January, he has relied heavily on current and former servicemen to run for key government positions, but Melo said the army itself has so far refrained from politics. ,

“Will this resistance continue?” He said. “That is the question.”

The announcement came after the leaders of the army, navy and air force met with the new Minister of Defense, General Walter Souza Braga Netto, on Tuesday morning.

On Monday, Bolsonaro reshuffled senior government positions, initially seen as a response to demands from lawmakers, diplomats and economists to address the issue, particularly in dealing with the epidemic that has killed more than 300,000 people in Brazil.

This included the replacement of Defense Minister Fernando Azevedo Silva, who in his resignation said he had “retained the armed forces as state institutions”, leading efforts to keep the generals out of politics.

Bolsonaro often scrutinized the checks and balances imposed by other branches of government, such as he took part in targeted demonstrations by the Supreme Court and Congress.

He also criticized the Supreme Court for upholding the right of local governments to adopt epidemic restrictions, which he strongly opposes, arguing that the economic consequences are worse than the disease itself.

The last slip of its popularity և the sudden possibility that in 2022. In the presidential election, he will meet with the former left-wing president Luis Inacio Lula da Silva, analysts say, he is seeking support for the armed forces.

Retired General Carlos Alberto Santos Cruz, a former secretary general of Bolsonaro, seems to have addressed such concerns when he responded to early news of his military resignation by tweeting: “THEY DIDN’T GO TO ARKA.”

Since Brazil’s return to democracy in 1985, the military has sought to avoid partisan political squabbles.

“The government must explain to the population the change of the Ministry of Defense,” added General Santos Cruz.

Senator Katia Abreu, who heads the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said it would be “reasonable” for the new defense ministry to speak of “the impossibility of military intervention to appease the nation.”

“I am convinced that we have built a strong democracy. “The forces that are part of the state of Brazil և they have the confidence of all of us,” said Abreu, Bolsonaro’s right-wing critic.

Earlier this month, Bolsonaro began referring to the armed forces in a dispute with governors and mayors over a restraining order aimed at slowing the spread of the coronavirus in Latin America’s largest country.

“My army does not take to the streets to force people to stay at home,” Bolsonaro told reporters on March 19. There are new fears that he may deploy troops to lift such restrictions.

Independent political analyst Thomas Truman told the Associated Press that this is the first time in the living memory that all the leaders of the armed forces have resigned at once.

“He wants people to do what he wants, it’s too risky,” Truman said. “He can withdraw from the army to allow people to go to work. So the army would be in his hands, not the generals’. “

Bolsonaro grew in popularity last year with an epidemic welfare program. Since the end of the program in December, that popularity has declined, and protests against it have resumed, as the nation’s daily casualties have reached a record high in the world.

Bolsonaro’s prospects are further blurred by the ouster of former President da Silva after the Supreme Court overturned two corruption rulings and restored his political rights. Early polls suggest he will be a huge contender in next year’s election.

Critics of Bolsonaro say they fear he may react to former US President Donald Trump by questioning the election defeat but taking stronger measures to counter it.

Bolsonaro also replaced Foreign Minister Ernesto Arajo, who was accused by some of obstructing the supply of vaccines, making comments that were offensive to the Chinese without quoting sources.

Bolsonaro also appointed a new Minister of Justice, Public Security, and a new Secretary of Government.

Earlier this month, Bolsonaro replaced his health minister, Army General Eduardo Pazuello, the third health minister to step down since the epidemic began. Pazuello, whose tenure coincided with most of Brazil’s 314,000 COVID-19 deaths, has been investigated by the Supreme Court over allegations he neglected that contributed to the collapse of the Amazon healthcare system this year.

Bolsonaro relied on a retired army general to take over Petrobras’s state oil behemoth, seeking the help of truck drivers who threatened to go on strike over rising fuel prices.

“While vaccination rates have been slow, political turmoil is diverting people from record daily levels of new COVID-19 cases,” Melo said.

According to Johns ounce Hopkins University, there are an average of 2,400 deaths per day in Brazil, a quarter of every day COVID-19 deaths.

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