Brazil president Bolsonaro names new top diplomat amid Cabinet shake-up

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Amid a slide in his popularity, President Jair Bolsonaro has shaken up the Cabinet, including replacing Brazil’s foreign minister who was widely criticized for an anti-globalism stance and accused by some of aggravating the pandemic by alienating vaccine suppliers.

Bolsonaro tweeted Monday that he was shifting three other Cabinet ministers to new posts — chief of staff, defense minister and attorney general — and naming a new justice and public security minister and a new government secretary.

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But the biggest change was moving Ernesto Araujo out as foreign minister. Araujo had most recently been under fire for comments and actions that critics said impeded faster access to coronavirus vaccines as the coronavirus batters Brazil.

It was just the latest Cabinet turmoil for the embattled Bolsonaro. The president in mid-March replaced the health minister, whose tenure coincided with most of Brazil’s 314,000 COVID-19 deaths and became the target of fierce criticism. In February, Bolsonaro tapped a retired army general to take over state-run oil behemoth Petrobras, seeking to appeal to his constituency of truck drivers who had threatened to strike over fuel price increases.

Araujo was subjected to a nearly five-hour Senate hearing last week to defend his ministry’s actions during the pandemic. Center-right Sen. Tasso Jereissati told the minister that he no longer had the standing to remain in the post and that his exit would end the help end the crisis.

The new foreign minister is Carlos Franca, who like Araujo is a career diplomat. But unlike Araujo, Franca isn’t a follower of far-right ideologue Olavo de Carvalho, the newspaper O Globo reported. He is an adviser to Bolsonaro and former ceremonial chief at the presidential palace and is considered to be pragmatic rather than ideological.

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