Brazil’s Defense Minister Ousted
President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva fired his defense minister heeding calls for the removal of top aviation officials after nearly 200 people were killed last week.
Waldir Pires was forced out as defense minister. Nelson Jobim, a retired Supreme Court judge and former justice minister with close ties to Lula, replaced Pires.
Lula, who has been criticized for being slow in reacting to crises.
Jobim told reporters after taking office that he would decide by the weekend whether to replace officials at the airports authority, Infraero.
Jobim will have free rein to do what it takes to fix the ailing aviation system.
“We are going to do what has to be done … and spend what has to be spent,” the president said at Jobim’s swearing-in ceremony.
Yet airport chaos continues.
Air traffic controllers have held work slowdowns to protest outdated radar and radio equipment and poor salaries.
The crisis deepened when the radar outage forced flights to change course, causing delays. Weather and a runway problem in Sao Paulo have added to the woe.
More than half of all flights in the country were delayed or canceled on Wednesday for the fourth straight day.
To reduce the delays and cancellations, Brazil’s aviation authority temporarily suspended ticket sales for flights to and from Congonha.