Bolsonaro Returns to the Planalto in Denial about the Severity of the Virus

By Dario Pignotti, on July 27, 2020

Brasilia Palácio da Alvorada. Foto: Ichiro Guerra.

On his first day back at Planalto after clearing the virus, Bolsonaro minimized the severity of the health crisis on Monday by criticizing the governors (without citing them), whom he blamed for causing the surge in unemployment due to the suspension of economic activities to contain the spread of Covid-19.

Throughout his quarantine, he was dedicated to promoting the consumption of hydroxychloroquine in live transmissions through social networks where he encouraged people to take the antiparasitic “Anita”.

According to Carta Capital magazine, it cannot be ruled out that with this publicity, which triggered the sale of hydroxychloroquine, the president may have done a favor for a friend who produces this drug.

A columnist for the weekly reported that 2 million hydroxychloroquine tablets donated by Donald Trump arrived and the Army lab has begun producing the drug on a large scale; a case that combines diplomacy and at least some suspicious activity.

During a meeting with hundreds of supporters ten days ago, Bolsonaro raised a box of the drug in his hands as if he were leading a religious ritual where the shepherd, or healer, praises something with miraculous powers.

Both the World Health Organization and the bulk of the Brazilian scientific community disapprove of the drug – conceived for lupus and malaria – for having side effects that can cost the lives of patients infected with covid-19.

Five months after the first case of the disease was recorded – a resident of São Paulo who was reportedly infected in Milan, Italy – the government has still not altered its decision to deny the magnitude of the problem even though Brazil has established itself as the second most infected country in the world.

The disaster was assimilated by a part of public opinion, especially those influenced by the  evangelical perspective, which is adapting to the new normal in which deaths are inevitable.

Another segment of the population, the majority, disapproves of the deviations of the head of state but does not translate its displeasure into mass protests, partly due to the quarantine, and partly because of the lack of a united opposition to the regime.

Recent polls, some published last week, say that this denialist formula was profitable for the ruler whose approval has risen in the last months. In an electoral simulation, Bolsonaro appears as the winner against any opponent in the 2022 elections, in which he will seek re-election.

The situation of the ultra-right-wing leader is not so comfortable outside his country, where he was the subject of a new complaint before the International Criminal Court (ICC) filed by entities representing nearly one million health professionals.

“The government’s omission characterizes the crime against humanity and genocide (…) it is urgent to open an investigative procedure before the ICC to prevent a part of the 210 million (Brazilians) from suffering the consequences of the President’s irresponsible acts,” the accusation alleges.

The government acted with “contempt and denial” resulting in the “spread” of the disease along with the “total strangulation of health services”.

The piece was produced by the UniSaúde Trade Union Network, which represents the unions of 19 Brazilian states together with international entities such as UNI Americas. The 64-page text, presented Sunday in The Hague, claims that the president ignored the recommendations of his former health ministers.

In April, Bolsonaro dismissed the then health minister, Luiz Henrique Mandetta, and in May his successor, Nelson Teich, two doctors who defended some form of social isolation and questioned hydroxychloroquine.

In May, Eduardo Pazuello, a general with no medical training, was appointed as head of the Health Department.

“The government should be held guilty for its insensitive actions (in the face of the pandemic) and for refusing to protect workers,” said Marcio Monzane, noting that more than 500 doctors and nurses have died from the virus in Brazil.

The complaint cites that two weeks ago Judge Gilmar Mendes, of the Brazilian Federal Supreme Court, spoke of an ongoing “genocide”, of which the Army would be complicit for having authorized an active general to apply the measures ordered by Bolsonaro.

The complaint cites that two weeks ago Judge Gilmar Mendes of the Brazilian Federal Supreme Court spoke of an ongoing “genocide”, of which the Army would be complicit for having authorized an active general to apply the measures ordered by Bolsonaro.

From the Planalto, the order is to refute and open legal cases, based on the National Security Law inherited from the dictatorship (1964-1985) against anyone who accuses the president of “genocide. This pressure is effective in inhibiting actions in local justice but impotent before international processes in the ICC and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.

If the Hague process succeeds, which will not happen immediately, Bolsonaro may become an international villian and once he has left the government he risks ending up like the Balkan war criminals convicted and arrested by the ICC.

Pope Francis

A group of 152 Brazilian archbishops and bishops, among them Claudio Hummes, a cardinal close to Pope Francis, released a letter criticizing Bolsonaro.

“We are witnessing anti-scientific speeches that try to naturalize the scourge of the thousands of deaths caused by the covid-19, treating it perhaps as a divine punishment”.

“Analyzing the political scenario without passion we perceive the lack of ability of the federal government to face the crisis,” says the text signed by Hummes. This archbishop emeritus of São Paulo, is possibly the main emissary of Jorge Mario Bergoglio in Brazil, the country with the largest Catholic community in the world.

As close to Francis as he is to the government, Hummes was the coordinator of the debates held in hundreds of chapels and ecclesial communities in the forest before the Synod on the Amazon held in October last year in the Vatican. The Synod was a diplomatic-religious move by Francis that displeased Bolsonaro and his generals, for whom the event was a disguised form of threat to “national sovereignty.

Another Bergoglian gesture that did not please the Planalto was the visit of Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva to the Vatican last February, four months after Bolsonaro refused to participate in the Mass, celebrated in St. Peter’s Square, for the canonization of the first saint born in Brazil, Sister Dulce.

The “Letter to the People of God”, known this Monday, was put under the consideration of the National Conference of Bishops of Brazil (CNBB), the highest Catholic entity, which, although it gave it its value, did not support it institutionally.

The letter does not bear the stamp of the CNBB, an organization in which there is a “conservative” wing, which has positions close to the government, reported the Folha de São Paulo newspaper on Monday.

The text questions the economic and environmental policies of the government.

The measures of the Minister of Economy Paulo Guedes “worsened the life of the poor and unprotected the vulnerable citizens (…) an economy that insists on neoliberalism and privileges the monopoly of small powerful groups to the detriment of the majority is unsustainable”, questioned the prelates closest to Francisco.

Source: Pagina 12, translation Resumen Latinoamericano,  North America bureau