3 Brazilian Military Chiefs Quit Following Bolsonaro’s Replacement of Defense Minister

March 31, 2021 Updated: March 31, 2021

The leaders of all three branches of Brazil’s armed forces jointly resigned Tuesday following President Jair Bolsonaro’s replacement of the defense minister.

The Defense Ministry reported the resignations—apparently unprecedented since at least the end of military rule 36 years ago—in a statement released without giving reasons. Replacements were not named.

The announcement came after the heads of the army, navy and air force met with the new defense minister, Gen. Walter Souza Braga Netto, on Tuesday morning.

Bolsonaro on Monday carried out a shake-up of top Cabinet positions that included the replacement of Defense Minister Fernando Azevedo e Silva.

Speaking to supporters outside the presidential palace Tuesday night, Bolsonaro did not discuss the three commanders. When asked about the pandemic restrictions imposed by governors and mayors, the Brazilian president said he respects the constitution, though he added: “But it has been some time that some authorities are not playing within the limits of the constitution.”

In other Cabinet changes, Bolsonaro replaced Foreign Minister Ernesto Araújo.

Earlier this month, Bolsonaro also replaced his health minister, active-duty army Gen. Eduardo Pazuello, the third health minister to leave office since the beginning of the pandemic. Pazuello’s tenure coincided with most of Brazil’s 317,000 COVID-19 deaths.

On Tuesday, Brazil’s health ministry said a new daily high of 3,780 deaths related to COVID-19 had been registered in the previous 24 hours. The previous high of 3,650 deaths was recorded Friday.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.