RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil, Fri. June 19, 2020 (Reuters) – Brazil’s Health Ministry reported new COVID-19 statistics on Thursday showing the country fast approaching 1 million confirmed coronavirus cases and 50,000 deaths.
With the world’s worst outbreak outside the United States, Brazil now has 978,142 confirmed cases and 47,748 deaths, up 1,238 from Wednesday, the ministry said.
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro’s firebrand education minister resigned on Thursday, following blunders that aggravated tense relations between the right-wing president and the country’s Supreme Court.
Education Minister Abraham Weintraub has been one of the loudest ideological voices in the government. His aggressive style made trouble for the president, including racist remarks about China, Brazil’s top trading partner, and a comment that Supreme Court judges should be locked up.
“If it were up to me, I’d stick all those bums in jail,” the minister said in a videotaped cabinet meeting.
The court included Weintraub in its investigation of an alleged libel and disinformation network run by Bolsonaro’s supporters after that recording became public in May.
Speaking on Thursday after justices voted 10-1 in favor of moving ahead with the “fake news” probe, Chief Justice Dias Toffoli warned that the gradual destabilization of institutions can lead to authoritarianism and totalitarianism.
“We cannot trivialize attacks and threats to the Supreme Court, guardian of the constitution,” he said.
Bolsonaro has ramped up tensions with the Brazil’s top court in recent months, participating in demonstrations calling for it to be disbanded after it authorized an investigation of his alleged interference in law enforcement.
In a bid to calm tensions with the court, Bolsonaro publicly rebuked Weintraub when he participated on Sunday in the latest protest, feeding speculation about the minister’s departure.
In a video on social media, Weintraub said he would not discuss why he was leaving the government to take a role at the World Bank. He read from a statement to the stone-faced president and then gave him a hug.
Weintraub’s departure came the same day Brazilian police arrested a former aide to Bolsonaro’s eldest son in a graft investigation, threatening to ratchet up his battle with the judiciary.
(Reporting by Pedro Fonseca and Eduardo Simoes; Writing by Gabriel Stargardter; Editing by Brad Haynes and Dan Grebler)