Brazil's Bolsonaro picks army general as defense minister
Brazilian President-elect Jair Bolsonaro appointed retired army General Fernando Azevedo e Silva as defense minister on Tuesday, adding another former military officer to his cabinet, which takes office on Jan. 1, according to Reuters.
Bolsonaro, a far-right politician and former army captain who was elected last month on a law-and-order and anti-corruption platform, announced the choice on Twitter.
Azevedo belongs to a group of retired army generals who backed Bolsonaro’s presidential bid in the name of fighting Brazil’s endemic political corruption.
The group of former top brass is headed by retired five-star General Augusto Heleno, whom Bolsonaro had originally named as defense minister. Last week he opted to make Heleno his national security adviser
Azevedo, a four-star general, was Bolsonaro’s contemporary at the Black Needles military academy, Brazil’s West Point, where they both trained as paratroopers.
While Bolsonaro was discharged from the Army as a low-ranking officer, Azevedo went on to become the commander of Brazil’s paratrooper brigade. He also served as operations chief of the Brazilian-led United Nations peacekeeping mission in Haiti when it was under Heleno’s command.
Azevedo retired as army chief of staff in August and has since been a special adviser to Chief Justice Dias Toffoli at the Supreme Court.
Bolsonaro is expected to name another member of the group, retired General Oswaldo Ferreira, a former head of the army engineers corps, as his transportation minister in charge of improving Brazil’s anemic national infrastructure.
The backing from military brass and the number of former officers in Bolsonaro’s cabinet have raised concerns about the outsized role of the armed forces in Brazil’s government. Bolsonaro has vowed to respect the constitution and democratic institutions.
Bolsonaro’s vice president-elect is retired General Hamilton Mourao, who was removed from command in 2015 and given a staff job for criticizing the leftist Workers Party government at the time. He later offered a public defense of military intervention if the courts failed to punish corrupt politicians.
Bolsonaro has suggested the army will play a role in backing up state police as part of a crackdown on violent crime and drug gangs that he promised while campaigning.