BRASILIA (Reuters) – Brazilian Vice President Hamilton Mourao said former Health Minister Eduardo Pazuello, an active-duty general who appeared at a rally for far-right President Jair Bolsonaro, will likely be disciplined by the army for breaking rules against political involvement.
Pazuello is under scrutiny by a Senate commission for his handling of the coronavirus pandemic, which has killed 440,000 Brazilians, the highest death toll outside the United States.
He was removed in March amid mounting criticism over the delays in securing COVID-19 vaccines and returned to military service.
Pazuello appeared on Sunday at a motorcycle demonstration followed by a rally with Bolsonaro supporters in Rio de Janeiro, where he joined the president on a sound car the president used for a speech. Neither of them wore masks at the event, which drew crowds despite the city’s social distancing rules.
Mourao, a retired general, told reporters that the army was likely to discipline Pazuello for violating army rules prohibiting active duty officers from participate in politics. The vice president suggested Pazuello be transferred to reserve duty to minimize the problem.
“Pazuello’s appearance at that political demonstration can be considered a transgression of army regulations,” Mourao said, adding that it was an internal disciplinary matter and Pazuello has apologized to the army’s commander.
Members of the Senate inquiry said they plan to summon Pazuello again after claiming he lied repeatedly to the commission during two days of questioning.
“No doubt he will be recalled to testify because he lied – and lied a lot,” said Senator Omar Aziz, the commission’s chair.
Grilled by senators last week, Pazuelllo shielded Bolsonaro from accusations that he had delayed efforts to secure vaccines and instead tried to get the health ministry to endorse unproven remedies.
Newspaper Folha de S.Paulo said the army high command is looking for a quick decision on Pazuello’s future, citing unnamed senior officers. The newspaper said pressure has grown for the general to be transferred from active service since he was fired as health minister.
(Reporting by Lisandra Paraguassu and Anthony Boadle; Editing by Alistair Bell)