Brazil’s far-right president, Jair Bolsonaro, has continually downplayed the coronavirus pandemic. He has criticized efforts to contain the virus via quarantines and shutdowns, calling Brazilian governors “irresponsible” in an interview with CNN. He has maintained this stance even after his possible exposure to the virus while visiting the US to meet with Donald Trump.
The country is in dire straits.
Last week, the country’s health minister, Luiz Henrique Mandetta, stated that the healthcare system will collapse by the end of April in an interview with NPR. He is not the only person to criticize Bolsonaro’s response.
Congresswoman Janaina Paschoal was quoted as saying “We are being invaded by an invisible enemy. We need people who are capable of leading the nation.”
Conservative newspapers like Estado de São Paulo have said that “the current government’s incompetence is found to be incurable.”
Oliver Stuenkel, a professor at the Fundação Getúlio Vargas in São Paulo, has said that “Even if he suddenly says: ‘OK guys, – I get it,’ it will be very hard for people not to blame him directly for what will happen.”
Every night, dissenters across Brazil have expressed their dissatisfaction by banging saucepans from windows and balconies. Although this may not seem notable, these protests have been taking place in wealthy areas that had backed Bolsonaro in 2018. It is clear that Bolsonaro is making a huge mistake by refusing to put Brazil on lockdown. The pandemic is not “a climate of terror” created by the media. It is a real killer. Calling for calm is appreciated, but appropriate countermeasures like social distancing and quarantine cannot be dismissed. When dealing with something so foreign to our modern eyes, a healthy dose of fear is necessary.
Considering Brazil’s place as the strongest economy in the region, Bolsonaro’s middling response is the opposite of what Brazil and the rest of Latin America needs. It actively endangers Brazil’s place in the world economy as well as the lives of its citizens. Some reporters, like Bruno Boghossian, a columnist for the Folha de São Paulo newspaper in the capital, Brasília, are calling Brazil’s economic meltdown “inevitable.” Even so, Bolsonaro seems to wholeheartedly believe that Brazilians are immune to the virus, after refusing to self-quarantine after being exposed to the virus himself. There is very little care being taken except in relation to Bolsonaro’s potential re-election, which is where the heart of the issue resides.
Rather than worrying about the citizens of Brazil and their livelihoods, “It’s pretty clear he [primarily cares about] his re-election and very little about actually fighting coronavirus,” says Kim Kataguiri, founder of the Free Brazil Movement.
It is terrible to watch as world leaders focus so hard on themselves and their own power that they ignore the health and safety of their citizens and country. The only solution is to self-quarantine and to encourage others to do so as well. As of the writing of this article, Brazil has reported nearly 3,000 cases and 77 deaths due to the Coronavirus. Despite this, Bolsonaro has maintained his denial, stating that Brazilians “never catch anything.”
Meanwhile, the Coronavirus pandemic continues to push through the world. The US now has more reported infections than China, with more than 82,000 cases throughout. Australia is placing all returning travellers in hotel quarantine for 14 days, and New Zealand is on complete lockdown for four weeks. It is clear that this pandemic will continue until its spread can be curbed by continued lockdown.
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