Brazilian President fires health minister

Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro fires his health minister over series of disagreements on efforts to contain coronavirus.

Arutz Sheva Staff ,

Luiz Henrique Mandetta
Luiz Henrique Mandetta

Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro on Thursday fired his health minister on Thursday after a series of disagreements over efforts to contain the new coronavirus, The Associated Press reported.

“You should have absolute certainty that we fought a good fight until here,” the outgoing minister, Luiz Henrique Mandetta, told fellow ministry workers in a televised press conference after announcing his departure on Twitter. “But we’re at the start of the battle.”

Mandetta, an orthopedist, garnered popular support for his pandemic response that included promotion of broad isolation measures enacted by state governors. He had drawn comparisons to Dr. Anthony Fauci, US President Donald Trump’s top virus expert.

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 efficacy of an anti-malarial drug.

“Life is priceless, but the economy and employment need to return to normality,” Bolsonaro said at a press conference on Thursday, adding that doesn’t mean doing so as fast as possible.

He also said he would neither condemn nor criticize Mandetta. “It was a consensual divorce because more important than me and more important than him as a minister is the health of the Brazilian people.”

For Mandetta’s replacement, Bolsonaro named Nelson Teich, an oncologist and senior health care consultant at medical services company Teich Health Care. He also has a Master’s in Business Administration, according to his LinkedIn page.

Bolsonaro 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 Mandetta’s tenure, so much so that the minister said the next day his subordinates had cleaned out his desk.

At his press conference on Thursday, Mandetta offered thanks to individuals with whom he had worked, and even to Bolsonaro.

“I leave the health ministry with a lot of gratitude to the president for having nominated me and allowing me to nominate each of you. I know I am leaving the best team. Work for the next minister like you worked for me. Don’t spare any effort,” he said.

Bolsonaro underwent two coronavirus tests after his communications secretary Fabio Wajngarten tested positive. Both of Bolsonaro’s tests came back negative.

After he underwent the first test, Bolsonaro denied having tested positive for coronavirus, disputing reports in local media he had tested positive.