RIO DE JANEIRO — A former Brazilian health minister has denied receiving any direct orders from President Jair Bolsonaro during his 10 months in the post, providing Senate testimony analysts consider an attempt to shield the country’s leader from blame regarding the government’s pandemic response.
Eduardo Pazuello provided testimony on Wednesday to the Senate committee investigating the Bolsonaro administration’s handling of the COVID-19 crisis. He was Brazil’s top health official from May 2020 to March 2021.
He told the senators that “the actions were all mine.” He added the president never “issued an order to do anything other than what I was doing.”
That appeared to contradict comments Pazuello made during a Oct. 22 live Facebook broadcast when, sitting beside Bolsonaro, the former army general said their relationship was simple. “One orders,” he said, pointing to Bolsonaro. “The other obeys,” he said, pointing to himself.
He was Brazil’s top health official from May 2020 to March 2021. Pazuello proved more compliant as minister than his two predecessors who left amid disagreements with Bolsonaro, particularly over prescription of chloroquine to treat COVID-19. Pazuello’s ministry backed the use and distribution of the unproven malaria pill.
Brazil, which is posting 2,000 daily deaths, has registered nearly 440,000 confirmed deaths from the coronavirus, second highest in the world.