On May 25, Brazil confirmed 11,687 new cases and 807 deaths of COVID-19 over the previous 24 hours. This meant for the first time Brazil’s daily coronavirus deaths were higher than fatalities in the United States for a one-day period.
It followed the news two days earlier the country had overtook Russia to become the country with the most confirmed cases of Covid-19 after the United States, and that on May 20 Brazil’s daily coronavirus death toll had hit 1,000 for the first time.
At the time of writing, more than 26,899 Brazilians have died and there have been 444,000 confirmed cases.
As if these figures weren’t horrifying enough, experts say the peak is still weeks away and that official figures are almost certainly underestimating the numbers.
“International solidarity is vital. The Brazilian peoples’ fight for policies based on saving lives & putting health first is our fight.”– Claudia Webbe MP
Despite, this, Brazil’s far-right President Jair Bolsonaro continues to play down the risks of the pandemic and regularly attack what he terms ‘media hysteria.’
Instead his response is to promote reactionary and deeply irresponsible policies, refusing to put people and their health first, and disastrously failing to advocate or implement the necessary ‘lockdown’ or social distancing measures.
Further confirmation of his attitude was revealed by the recent release of a video of an April ministerial meeting, in which he and his top team appear to take little interest in a strategy on how to tackle the pandemic.
Opposition continues to grow to Bolsonaro’s disastrous response to the pandemic across Brazilian society, as illustrated by the daily sharing of videos of Brazilians banging pot and pans from their windows in protest. This opposition includes voices who have previously supported the President and led to Health Minister Nelson Teich abruptly resigning after less than a month in the job.
Bolsonaro, continues to advocate an extreme policy of putting private profit before the interests of the population, had criticised the Minister as being too timid in terms of the President’s wish to fully reopen the economy,
Teich had also disagreed with Bolsonaro’s ongoing insistence (echoing its use by Donald Trump) in the use of hydroxychloroquine as a treatment for COVID-19. This has been condemned widely internationally due to a lack of scientific evidence, and according to a study published in The Lancet, researchers found the drug and related medicine chloroquine were linked to an increased risk of death in people suffering from COVID-19.
Teich’s predecessor Luiz Mandetta had been fired by Bolsonaro in April following disagreements over social distancing and isolation measures, which Bolsonaro has dismissed as unnecessary contrary to all the evidence and World Health Organisation advice.
As part of this growing opposition to Bolsonaro and his deadly handling of the crisis, a broad coalition of seven left-wing opposition parties have now presented to the Brazilian Congress an impeachment motion against the President.
This supported by former Workers’ Party (PT) Presidents of the country Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (who was prevented from standing against Bolsonaro in the 2018 election due to being jailed on trumped up charges) and Dilma Rousseff (who was removed by the ‘parliamentary coup’ in 2016.)
Explaining PT support for impeachment, Party President Gleisi Hoffman said “With this government, there is nothing else to do,” adding (Bolsonaro) “fights with the whole world and does not protect the Brazilian people.”
Amongst its central points are Bolsonaro has shown weak and negligent leadership whilst the country has been facing the pandemic and that he has been part of attempts to disrupt democracy.
It also cites his support of some 300 extreme-right groups in Brazil, some of whom have joined Bolsonaro on recent protests praising military dictatorship in the country.
Supporting its contents, the PSOL (Socialism and Liberty Party) said it represented “a long list of crimes against the free exercise of constitutional powers, against the free exercise of political, individual and social rights, [and] against the internal security of the country and administrative probity.”
The urgent need to internationally support people in Brazil struggling against Bolsonaro and his reactionary policies was further highlight by the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) issuing an alert regarding the fast-spreading of COVID-19 in the Amazon, including in the tri-border area between Brazil, Colombia, and Peru.
With COVID-19 spreading fast in densely populated cities nearby, there is a very real risk of infection and spread amongst remote Indigenous communities, for whom highly infectious diseases pose a devastating threat.
This would have disastrous consequences, and a prominent organisation representing indigenous peoples, the Articulation of the Indigenous Peoples of Brazil (APIB), has already reported amongst 540 confirmed cases amongst 40 groups.
Faced with this crisis, and the deforestation and discriminatory policies from a far-right President in recent years, now more than ever we must speak up in support of Brazil’s indigenous communities.
And this solidarity with Brazil’s indigenous peoples must also extend to standing with all those in Brazil arguing for a different response to Bolsonaro’s disastrous policies. International solidarity is vital. Their fight for policies based on saving lives and putting public health first is our fight.
- Claudia Webbe is the MP for Leicester East & Vice-Chair of the Brazil Solidarity Initiative. Follow her at https://www.facebook.com/claudiaforLE/ & https://twitter.com/ClaudiaWebbe. Follow BSI e at https://www.facebook.com/BrazilSolidarityInitiative/ & https://twitter.com/BSI_Updates
This article was originally published by Labour Outlook here.