A Letter from Frei Betto: A Genocide Is Taking Place In Brazil

Frei Betto is a Dominican friar, writer, adviser to FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization) and former adviser to Lula’s government. Having been imprisoned for 4 years by Brazil’s military dictatorship, he has penned a stark warning over Brazil under Bolsonaro.

Dear friends

There is a genocide going on in Brazil! At the time of writing this letter- July 16th -Covid-19, which emerged here in February, has already killed 76,000 people. There are almost 2 million infected. By Sunday, July 19th, we will have reached 80,000 fatalities. It is possible that, when you read this dramatic appeal, there will be 100 thousand dead here.

When I remember that in the Vietnam War, over 20 years, 58,000 lives of US military personnel were sacrificed, I have the scope of the seriousness of what happens in my country. This horror causes outrage and revolt. And we all know that precautionary and restrictive measures, adopted in so many other countries, could have prevented such a death toll.

This genocide is not the result of the indifference of Bolsonaro’s government. This genocide is intentional. Bolsonaro is pleased with the death of others. When he was a House Representative, in a TV interview in 1999, he declared: “You will change nothing by voting in this country, nothing, absolutely nothing! Things will only change, unfortunately, if one day we go to a civil war here, and do the work that the military regime did not do: kill some 30 thousand people ”.

When voting in favor of President Dilma’s impeachment, he offered his vote in memory of the most notorious torturer in the Brazilian Army during the military dictatorship, Colonel Brilhante Ustra.

He is so obsessed with death, that one of his main government policies is the liberation of gun and ammunition sales. Asked, outside the presidential palace, if he did not care for the victims of the pandemic, he replied: “I do not believe these numbers” (March 27th, 92 deaths); “We will all die one day” (March 29th, 136 deaths); “So what? What do you want me to do?” (April 28th, 5,017 deaths).

Why this necrophilic policy? From the beginning, he declared that the important thing was not to save lives, but the economy. Hence his refusal to declare a lockdown, comply with WHO guidelines and import respirators and personal protective equipment. The Supreme Court had to delegate this responsibility to governors and mayors.

Bolsonaro did not even respect the authority of his own ministers of health. Since February, Brazil has had two ministers, both fired for refusing to adopt the same attitude as the president. Now, at the head of the ministry is General Pazuello, who understands nothing about the health crisis. He tried to hide the data on the evolution of Coronavirus victims’ numbers; he employed 38 military personnel in key ministry functions, without the required qualifications; and canceled the daily interviews through which the population received guidance.

It would be exhaustive to list the actions needed to provide resources to help victims and low-income families (more than 100 million Brazilians) that have never been implemented here.

The criminal intent of the Bolsonaro government is evident: to let the elderly die to save Social Security resources, to let pre-existing illnesses sufferers die to save resources from SUS, the national health system and to let the poor die to save the resources of “Bolsa Família” and other social programs for the 52.5 million Brazilians living in poverty and the 13.5 million who live in extreme poverty. (Federal government data).

Not satisfied with such lethal measures, the president has now vetoed, in a bill sanctioned on July 3rd, the instruction that requires the use of masks in commercial establishments, religious temples and educational institutions. He also vetoed the imposition of fines for those who break the rules, and the government’s obligation to distribute masks to the poorest, the main victims of Covid-19, and to prisoners (750 thousand). These vetoes, thankfully, do not override local laws that already establish the mandatory use of masks.

On July 8th Bolsonaro overturned parts of the Senate-approved law that required the government to provide drinking water and hygiene and cleaning materials, internet facilities and the distribution of food, seeds and agricultural tools to indigenous villages. He also vetoed emergency funds for indigenous health, as well as easier access by indigenous and quilombolas (African Brazilian communities) to the emergency aid of 600 reais (100 euros or 120 dollars) for three months. He also vetoed the government’s obligation to offer hospital beds, ventilators and blood oxygenation machines to indigenous and quilombola peoples.

Indigenous and quilombola communities have been decimated by the growing socio-environmental devastation, especially in the Amazon.

Please spread the word about this crime against humanity as much as possible. The denunciation of what happens in Brazil must reach the media in your country, digital networks, the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, the International Court of The Hague as well as banks and companies that are the investors the Bolsonaro government so covets.

Before The Economist magazine did it, I nicknamed Brazil’s president – in my digital network – BolsoNero: while Rome burns, he plays the lyre and advertises chloroquine, a drug with no scientific efficacy against the new coronavirus. (Its manufacturers are his political allies …)

I thank you for your sympathetic interest in spreading this letter. Only pressure from abroad will be able to stop the genocide that is plaguing our beloved and wonderful Brazil.


Frei Betto

You can also view this letter on Brasil Wire here.

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