Brazilian government denies coronavirus severity


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Submitted by InfoBrics, authored by Lucas Leiroz, research fellow in international law at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro...

Last week, a secret document from the Brazilian Intelligence Agency (ABIN) was leaked on internet and published by The Intercept website. The document consists of a detailed report about the coronavirus pandemic in Brazil, taking an overall assessment of the crisis and pointing out truly catastrophic forecasts for the coming months, revealing that the Brazilian authorities already know and ignore several data in addition to those officially reported in media.

The ABIN report predicts that by April 6, more than 5,500 Brazilians will die infected by COVID-19, in addition to a number of over 200 thousand cases of contamination. The report also takes into account cases that have not been confirmed or officially reported by the media and authorities. The document also presents a complex comparative study between the growth of the disease and the number of beds occupied in public hospitals in the country, feeding the worrying thesis that soon the Brazilian public health network will be on the verge of bankruptcy – or even already officially inactive. It is expected that in 15 days, from the delivery of the document, the collapse of the intensive care units of the public system will be decreed.

The document was submitted by the Agency to the appreciation of the Minister of the Office for Institutional Security, General Augusto Heleno, who, ironically, is infected, as well as 25 other people who participated in President Jair Bolsonaro’s entourage in his last visit to the US, at the beginning of March. To further aggravate the situation of tension and instability, Bolsonaro carried out two tests for the disease and refused to disclose the results of the tests, just stating in his own words that he is not infected. Generating even more uncertainty, the Brazilian President announced that he carried out the exams using codenames, so that no one will be able to consult his results in the annals of the health networks. Throughout Brazil and abroad, the reason for such a desire to hide the results of the tests is questioned, since it would have supposedly presented a negative result. More and more, the belief that Jair Bolsonaro has coronavirus is growing.

However, neither the intelligence reports nor the confirmed cases in his own team seem to cause the Brazilian president to increase his precautions to avoid worsening the crisis in Brazil. Bolsonaro continues to deny the seriousness of the virus and affirming that “the economy cannot stop because of a ‘mild flu’, neglecting the WHO recommendations to take quarantine and social isolation measures. Bolsonaro’s neoliberal agenda appear to be the government’s top priority, far above the social well-being and health of the Brazilian people. Recently, a law was passed allowing employers to pay half the wages of employees during the quarantine period, if companies choose to adopt it. In a situation of widespread crisis, where millions of people cannot work due to risks of contamination, the cut in wages cannot generate any other result than more problems related to poverty and hunger, which will cause greater social chaos.

However, Bolsonaro is not only negligent in his speech, but also contradictory and unpredictable. The president makes his pronouncements about the pandemic alternating between two theses: in one, he underestimates the disease, calling it “mild flu”, stating that “only the elderly die” and encouraging the population to resume their work routine carelessly; in another, he claims that the Chinese government is behind the pandemic, and the virus being a biological weapon used by Beijing in search for economic benefits, as he has manifested in several conversations and private or small public meetings, as reported by his main advisors. The worst case scenario is when both speeches are mixed and the President’s followers encourage the population to go to the streets because “COVID-19 is a ‘harmless Chinese flu’”. The sad thing about this situation is that more and more people take to the streets and, abandoned by the State, try to resume their daily tasks, contributing silently to the spread of the virus.

Recently, a study by the Imperial College London concluded that Brazil could reach the mark of 1 million dead, if control measures are not taken immediately. Analyzing the growth of the disease in Brazil compared to 20 other countries, in addition to other factors concerning the Brazilian social reality, more than 50 scientists signed the study report, which is absolutely ignored by the Brazilian authorities.

As part of his neoliberal policy, based on the discourse that “the economy cannot stop”, Bolsonaro has irresponsibly urged the population to leave home, work and take to the streets protesting in favor of his government, emphatically reaffirming that the virus is harmless to anyone person under 60 years of age. Thus, we must ask: Will Bolsonaro be held legally responsible for the role he is playing in the spread of the virus? When Brazilians start to get sick and die massively because they have resumed their confident routines after the president’s speeches, what will be the measure to be taken against him?

A government that ignores not only international recommendations, but also its own intelligence, cannot be considered minimally prepared to lead a country in the midst of a global pandemic. Perhaps it is finally time for Bolsonaro to review his main concepts and try to change this scenario while it is still possible.

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The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Duran.

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