Issued on: 16/04/2020 – 22:35Modified: 16/04/2020 – 22:35
Brazils President Jair Bolsonaro fired his health minister on Thursday after a series of disagreements over government efforts to contain the new coronavirus. “I just heard from the President Jair Bolsonaro the news of my dismissal from the health ministry,” Luiz Henrique Mandetta posted on his verified Twitter profile, adding that he wished success to his replacement, who is yet to be named officially.
Mandetta, a doctor, garnered popular support for his pandemic response that included promotion of broad isolation measures enacted by state governors. Bolsonaro, for his part, repeatedly characterized the virus as a “little flu,” said shutting down the economy would cause more damage than confining only high-risk Brazilians, and touted the yet-unproven efficacy of an anti-malarial drug.
Mandetta has drawn comparisons to Dr. Anthony Fauci, U.S. President Donald Trumps top virus expert. Fauci and Mandetta have often made public statements about the virus that differed with those of their bosses. Afterward, Bolsonaro and Trumps bases each took to Twitter to call for removal of their countrys top health official. The White House has said this week that Faucis job is secure.
Republicans close to the White House say Trump has complained about Faucis positive media attention and sought to leave him out of task force briefings. Bolsonaro, likewise, had convened doctors without inviting Mandetta and, in a televised interview earlier this month, said Mandetta had failed to show “humility.” A few days later, on April 5, Bolsonaro told a group of supporters that he would act against officials in his government who “are full of themselves.”
Those comments were widely understood as signaling an end to Mandettas tenure, so much so that the minister said the next day his subordinates had cleaned out his desk.
He survived, but questions have since swirled over whether Bolsonaro had indeed backed away from dismissing the man whose COVID-19 response was welcomed by many Brazilians, or if he were just biding his time while recruiting a replacement.
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