Brazil’s COVID-19 outbreak is threatening to get out of control, while President Jair Bolsonaro is urging state governors to lift coronavirus restrictions, says Brazilian journalist Alan Dantas. According to the journalist, the walls are closing in on the president as his former allies are turning their backs on him.
Brazil is now ranking third in terms of the number of infected, with a fatality rate floating at around 6.4%. Earlier, Bruno Covas, the mayor of Sao Paulo, warned that Brazil’s biggest city’s public hospitals are “near collapse”, as over 90% of their beds are occupied by patients and urged President Jair Bolsonaro to shut down the country. Meanwhile, US President Donald Trump signalled that he was considering restricting travel from Brazil as the country’s pandemic is seemingly spiralling out of control.
‘Lack of Management’ Exacerbating the Problem
“The situation in Brazil becomes more critical every day and the number of contagions and deaths continues to break new records every 24 hours”, says Alan Dantas, a Brazilian journalist and editor of Dossier Sul, an online political magazine. “The lack of capacity of the central government to work to avoid these numbers is becoming more and more evident. Jair Bolsonaro’s government, together with [Brazilian] businessmen, is campaigning for the country to reopen its economic activities and expose people to risk. In many states, health systems have collapsed and in the poorest regions, people remain without health care and die inside their homes”.
The journalist refers to neighbouring Argentina and Venezuela, which have largely managed to get the pandemic under control due to strict quarantine measures and have so far reported 10,649 and 944 confirmed coronavirus cases respectively.
“Brazil lost control of COVID-19 and now the disease already kills more than other health problems”, Dantas opines. “The big problem is still the lack of management by Jair Bolsonaro’s government, which besides not taking care of the disease, makes fun of the death of its citizens”.
From the beginning of the coronavirus outbreak Bolsonaro dismissed it as a “media trick” and a “little flu” and publicly subjected quarantine restrictions to ridicule. “We will all die one day”, the president said as quoted by Último Segundo in late March. A month later, he shrugged off news about a spike in coronavirus-related deaths: “So what? I’m sorry. What do you want me to do?” he responded to journalists, as cited by The Guardian.
Behind Bolsonaro’s calls for opening the country up is a strong lobby from the Brazilian corporate sector, as well as the financial lobby, according to the journalist.
Previously, the president insisted on the necessity to prioritise the economy: “Are people dying? Oh, yeah. But there will be more people dying, many, many more, if the economy is destroyed by these lockdown measures imposed by governors”, Bolsonaro stated earlier this month, as cited by Euronews.
According to the journalist, Bolsonaro’s “economic crisis” narrative is aimed at persuading Brazilians that the country’s economy will collapse unless its state governors lift the lockdown.
Bolsonaro is on Thin Ice
“The Bolsonaro situation tends to become increasingly unsustainable“, the journalist continues. “His lack of management in the face of the pandemic and the crisis that Brazil is going through are causing his popularity rates to be lower and lower among the population”.
Bolsonaro’s approval rating has fallen to 39.2% from 47.8% in January, according to a CNT/MDA survey, while disapproval of the president has mounted from 47.0% to 55.4%.
The resignations of two health ministers and Justice Minister Sergio Moro’s decision to step down in late April “indicate that Bolsonaro is losing more and more space and has become isolated in the national political scenario”, the journalist suggests.
Moro resigned after Bolsonaro fired Mauricio Valeixo, the federal police chief, in an alleged attempt to shield one of his sons from criminal prosecution. “I didn’t enter the government to serve a master. I entered it to serve the country, the law”, the former justice minister told Time Magazine, commenting on the matter. The president resolutely denounced the assumptions and even called Moro “Judas”.
“The [unfolding] scenario triggers many questions about the continuity of [the Bolsonaro] government in the medium term and whether there would already be a propitious scenario for an impeachment process against him, a letter that is already being put on the table”, highlights Alan Dantas. “It remains to be seen whether Bolsonaro will passively accept this process or risk a coup d’état in the midst of the pandemic”.
On Friday, Brazil’s Supreme Court released a video of a cabinet meeting showing Bolsonaro bemoaning his inability to get information from the country’s law enforcement officials and vowing to protect his family members. The two-hour video with some portions redacted was made public as part of the ongoing inquiry concerning the president’s alleged meddling in a criminal investigation into his son. Although the recent exposure has further escalated tensions in the Brazilian government, Bolsonaro is still strongly denying any wrongdoing.
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