The ministry said in a statement on Tuesday that the decision was taken earlier today during a meeting with new Defense Minister Walter Braga Netto and his predecessor, Fernando Azevedo e Silva.
He did not provide further details on the changes.
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro faces increasing pressure to account for his government’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic, which has devastated the South American nation and killed more than 313,000 people.
The country has recorded more than 12.5 million infections to date, according to data from Johns Hopkins University, and a recent surge in the number of cases has pushed the health system to the brink of collapse, oxygen supplies and other supplies running out.
Doctors and public health experts have warned that the current wave is particularly hitting young Brazilians.
Bolsonaro, a COVID-19 skeptic who played down the threat of the virus, announced on Monday that he was making six changes to his cabinet, including replacing his defense, justice and foreign ministers.
Former Foreign Minister Ernesto Araújo was a staunch ally of Bolsonaro who had increasingly drawn the ire of Brazilian lawmakers over his long-standing criticism of China.
The departure of former Bolsonaro defense chief Azevedo e Silva came as more of a surprise on Monday.
In a statement from the ministry, Azevedo e Silva said he had “preserved the armed forces as state institutions” during his tenure. “I am leaving with the certainty of a mission accomplished.” »
Some Brazilian media reported that the heads of the army, navy and air force had resigned in protest against Bolsonaro’s decision to replace Azevedo e Silva.
“For the first time in history, the commanders of the three branches of the armed forces tendered their joint resignation in disagreement with the president,” the Folha de Sao Paulo newspaper said.
Although the military chiefs’ replacements were not named on Tuesday, some analysts have expressed fears that the far-right president, a former army captain himself, is trying to assert greater control over the ‘army.
“Since 1985, we have not heard from such a clear intervention by the president vis-à-vis the armed forces,” Carlos Melo, professor of political science at Insper University in Sao Paulo, told reporters. AP news agency.
“Will this resistance continue?” he said. “That’s the question.”
The changes come just a week after Bolsonaro vowed to appoint a new health minister – the fourth since the start of the pandemic.
Health Minister Marcelo Queiroga said on Monday that he planned to meet with U.S. Ambassador Todd Chapman on Tuesday to try to secure faster delivery of Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccines as the Brazil has been marred by delays.
The country has reached an agreement to receive 100 million doses this year, but the first delivery of two million jabs is not expected until May.
“We are very committed to getting faster delivery, an exchange, because Americans are not going to release any vaccines until they have vaccinated their entire population, but they are willing to do an exchange,” Queiroga said. .
Earlier this month, Brazil’s Foreign Ministry said it was in talks with the administration of US President Joe Biden to try to import excess vaccines from the United States.