BRASILIA – Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro named on Wednesday three new armed forces commanders after the resignation earlier this week of the heads of the army, air force and navy, Defense Minister Gen. Walter Braga Netto announced.
In a ceremony held in Brasilia, Braga Netto officially announced the appointments of Gen. Paulo Sergio Nogueira de Oliveira as army commander, Lt. Gen. Carlos Baptista Junior as air force commander and Adm. Almir Garnier at the navy’s top officer.
Nogueira de Oliveira now occupies the post that Gen. Edson Pujol vacated, while Baptista Junior replaces Lt. Gen. Antonio Carlos Moretti Bermudez and Garnier replaces Adm. Ilques Barbosa.
The changes, the first time all three commanders have been replaced at once, provides continuity to the shifts undertaken in the top echelons of government announced by Bolsonaro on Monday with the replacement of six of his Cabinet members.
In addition to the expected departure of then-Foreign Minister Ernesto Araujo, under pressure from members of his political base and the opposition, came the surprise replacement of Gen. Fernando Azevedo e Silva, who had held the Defense Ministry portfolio.
According to local media reports, Bolsonaro, a reserve army captain, 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.
In like manner, reports have circulated that Azevedo e Silva’s refusal to relieve army commander Pujol, whom Bolsonaro did not like either, precipitated the defense chief’s departure.
In his succinct statement during the ceremony, Braga Netto, who left the Civil Affairs Ministry, did not comment on the reasons for the changes in the armed forces command structure and 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.