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Brazil’s ex-foreign minister tells Covid CPI there was no friction with China

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – The Senate Parliamentary Investigation Committee (CPI) on the Pandemic heard ex-foreign minister Ernesto Araújo on Tuesday, May 18, the seventh person to testify before the body.

Former Foreign Minister Ernesto Araújo (Photo internet reproduction)

Since 9:30 AM, Araújo answered questions about the conduct of Brazilian diplomacy during the pandemic, focusing on Brazil’s relationship with China and negotiations for vaccine purchases.

The ex-minister denied that he had caused any friction with China “before or during the pandemic” and further denied that he had hindered vaccine purchases for Brazil. “I don’t understand any statement that I made at any time as anti-Chinese. There were certain moments when, as you know, by official notes, the Foreign Ministry, I made the decision, we complained about the behavior of the Chinese Embassy or the Chinese Ambassador in Brasilia, but there was no statement that could be qualified as anti-Chinese. There is no impact of something that did not happen,” he declared.

According to Ernesto Araújo, the Foreign Ministry monitored the bureaucratic procedures related to the vaccines’ raw materials, but no correlation was identified between the delay in their supply and the Brazilian government’s statements.

Departure from the government

When discussing his departure from the post of Brazilian foreign minister in March this year, the diplomat said that the dismissal was unrelated to the vaccine issue. “It most certainly was not related to the vaccines issue, as has been said. The president stated that certain facts had led to the emergence of problems that could hinder relations specifically with the Senate, and he asked me to make my position available, which I did,” he said.

Araújo said that in 2020 the Ministry of Foreign Affairs had instructed Brazilian diplomatic posts to conduct trials abroad, in partnership with the Ministry of Health at all times, with which he had a good relationship, under Luiz Henrique Mandetta, Nelson Teich, or Eduardo Pazuello.

United States

Asked whether the Brazilian government’s statements, met with disapproval by China, were related to an alignment with Donald Trump’s international policy, Ernesto Araújo replied that they were not. Further, on relations with the Trump administration, he said that there was a “rapprochement”, but that the relationship did not result in benefits to the immunization of Brazilians, as the United States banned the export of vaccines.

According to Araújo, with Joe Biden as President of the United States, there was a change in emphasis by the American government, but there was close and fruitful contact with the new government in order to reestablish the relationship based on the American government’s new priorities.


Rapporteur Renan Calheiros (MDB-AL) asked the diplomat to clarify the acquisition of hydroxychloroquine by the Brazilian government. The ex-minister said that in March 2020 there was expectation that chloroquine would be effective, not only in Brazil, but in the world. “The stocks of chloroquine were low and we helped enable them. It is a needed drug, used for other chronic diseases, and the stocks were low,” he explained.

Covax Facility

Regarding Brazil’s decision to source the equivalent of 10% of the Brazilian population’s vaccine doses from the international Covax Facility consortium – a World Health Organization (WHO) initiative to supply vaccines to the world – the diplomat reported that there was a meeting at the Chief of Staff to analyze Brazil’s accession to the group. According to Araújo, the Ministry of Health decided on the percentage of doses, which could have been up to 50%.

“I was never against the international consortium, the Foreign Ministry had been attentive since April 2020, as soon as the Covax was formed in July, I signed a letter to the consortium’s manager saying that Brazil was interested in joining. The contract was ready in September and we signed it at that time,” said Araújo. The contract resulted in the acquisition of 2.9 million vaccine doses for Brazilians.

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