Brazil is one of the epicentres of the pandemic, surpassing 1.4 million cases and 60 thousand deaths. The pandemic has not plateaued in Brazil, yet the worst affected areas, in terms of numbers of cases, Rio and São Paulo, have started reopening commerce, bars and restaurants.
The Brazilian president, Jair Bolsonaro, maintains his position against social distancing measures (which are left to be done by local governments on a much smaller budget), and has recently vetoed policy passed in congress making the use of face-coverings compulsory in shops, schools and churches.
Bolsonaro has also recently announced he’s tested positive for Covid-19. Since, he’s opportunistically made public appearances to say he is being treated hydroxychloroquine, a medication for which tests show a lack of scientific evidence of effectiveness against SARS-CoV-2, but praised by Trump and subsequently Bolsonaro as a “wonder drug” , and included in the Brazilian Ministry of Health protocol of treatment of Covid-19.
“ We should take advantage of the media attention on the pandemic to let the cattle go past” — said Bolsonaro’s environment minister in a leaked statement referring to the illegal deforestation of the Amazon for farming. Indeed, the deforested area of the Amazon in April 2020 was 170% than the same period last year. Not coincidentally, a project of law for the privatisation of water supplies in Brazil has gone to discussion in the Senate. This was perhaps the most unpopular part of Guedes’s economic plan, which included the privatisation of dozens of state-owned companies.
Covid-19 and indigenous communities
Indigenous peoples are especially sensitive to respiratory infections (which are their number one cause of death), and practices such as sharing food bowls and utensils and living in close quarters accentuate transmission. Specialists state that the pandemic has the potential to wipe out Brazilian indigenous communities.
Given the lack of government measures such as food deliveries, indigenous people still need to make regular visits to towns or cities for supplies, where they might catch and carry the virus back to their communities. Unsurprisingly, Bolsonaro has also recently vetoed a law allocating resources such as drinking water, PPE and respirators to indigenous communities.
Fabricio Queiroz, ex-chief of staff of Flavio Bolsonaro (Jair’s son), has been arrested for corruption after being found in a farm belonging to the family’s lawyer.
This is the latest development on the corruption case against Flavio Bolsonaro, and a major contributing factor to Bolsonaro’s recent loss of popularity. It is worth remembering that ex-minister of justice, Sergio Mouro, resigned over Bolsonaro’s attempts to control the appointment of the chief of police in Rio, who would be in charge of his son’s investigation.
Black lives matter
Following the demonstrations in the US, Brazil also saw a rise in activity of the black movement in the past few weeks — especially in Rio and São Paulo, big population centres where police violence is particularly rampant. Demonstrations have been smaller than usual due to the pandemic, yet hundreds of protesters on the streets call, amongst other things, for the “demilitarisation” of the Brazilian police, and for justice for Miguel Otávio and João Pedro.
Miguel Otávio, an 8 year old boy, son a of a domestic worker, died after falling off a building due to gross negligence of his mother’s boss. And João Pedro, a 14 year old, was brutally killed by the police, with more than 70 shots in his own home.
Partly due to pressure from the streets, the Brazilian supreme court resolved to stop all police operations in favelas during the pandemic. But even after the resolution, there were reports of many shots fired by the police in the Rio favela Complexo do Alemão.
An average of three people a day die at the hands of the police in Rio, most in big, almost military, operations of the “war on drugs” in favelas.