Brazil's Defense Ministry appointed late Wednesday the new chiefs of staff for its three armed forces following the decision of their predecessors to turn in their resignations in support of deposed Defense Minister Fernando Azevedo e Silva, who has been replaced by Walter Braga Netto in a major cabinet reshuffle by President Jair Bolsonaro over the past week.
Paulo Sergio Nogueira de Oliveira will take over the Army, Almir Garnier will head the Navy and Baptista Júnior is as of now in charge of the Air Force, Braga Netto announced as he underlined that the Armed Forces would remain faithful to their constitutional mission.
The three new chiefs are senior military officers and their picking eased fears among some analysts that Bolsonaro would prefer younger replacements so as to politicize the armed forces.
The appointment came within the commemoration of the 1964 coup d'etat which led to 21 years of military dictatorship. Braga Netto had issued a statement on Tuesday in which he described the events of March 31, 1964 as a movement rather than a coup.
The abrupt changes in the Armed Forces are regarded as a radical change in relations between the far-right Bolsonaro, a retired Army captain who has filled his government with military personnel, and the career officers who lead the Armed Forces. It was the first time ever all three chiefs resigned simultaneously.
Opposition lawmakers have sumitted requests before Congress for Bolsonaro's impeachment for his handling of the coronavirus pandemic. According to local media reports, Bolsonaro had been bothered by a recent interview Azevedo e Silva gave in which the then-minister warned about a third covid-19 wave and, contrary to the administration’s policy, defended social distancing measures.
Braga Netto called for unity in fighting the pandemic, which has killed more than 317,000 Brazilians and infected some 12.6 million people in the South American giant over the past 13 months. “The best asset of a nation is the guarantee of democracy and freedom for its people. The military did not fail in the past and will never fail since the country needs them,” said the general, who hailed the 57th anniversary – celebrated on Wednesday – of the coup d’etat that installed a military dictatorship that ruled Brazil from 1964-1985.