Bolsonaro and Coronavirus: A Tragedy Foretold

“No room for sentiment” said Wall Street insiders in 2018, as their man Jair Bolsonaro ascended to the Brazilian Presidency.

In the face of Coronavirus, Brazil’s people are now living with the deadly consequences of that collusion.

In a televised speech during the evening of March 24 2020, as the sound of Panelaço protests reverberated around the Brazil’s cities, its disintegrating President Jair Bolsonaro spoke of the Coronavirus pandemic. He accused State Governors, whom have imposed autonomous measures to contain the disease, of spreading “panic and hysteria”.

He criticised the media as accomplices in this: “They spread a feeling of dread, with the large number of victims in Italy” insisted Bolsonaro, who argued that the country’s characteristics were so different to Brazil that the experience of Coronavirus there was not relevant. He also said that only over 60s were at risk and lamented the closure of schools.

The 65 year old then claimed to be impervious to the virus, due to his “athleticism”.

“We must return to normality.” Bolsonaro insisted, something that has not existed during his Presidency.

Somewhere between the Malthusian philosophies of Northern Conservatives, the corporate eugenics of Wall Street, and the genocidal instincts of Neo Nazis, is the mind of Brazil’s far-right President Jair Bolsonaro.

This man is now responsible for the well being of 210 million people, as they face a cruel and unprecedented pandemic.

Brazil, in what may be its darkest hour, is at the mercy of a deranged lunatic. This is no exaggeration.

On March 23 2020, Texas Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick suggested on Fox News that Grandparents would be prepared to die to protect the economy for their Grandchildren.

The same day former Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein wrote on his Twitter account that: “Extreme measures to flatten the virus “curve” is sensible-for a time-to stretch out the strain on health infrastructure. But crushing the economy, jobs and morale is also a health issue-and beyond. Within a very few weeks let those with a lower risk to the disease return to work,” while New York Times’ Thomas Friedman argued along the lines of the United Kingdom’s already discredited “Herd Immunity” strategy.

Also that day, the US Department of Homeland Security revealed that they had discovered plans by US Neo Nazis to spread Coronavirus deliberately in non white neighbourhoods and public places. (We should not underestimate the possibility that Brazil’s extreme right, who worship their North American counterparts, and to whom the racist Jair Bolsonaro is a “legend”, will try to emulate such behaviour).

Brazil’s far-right President himself has a long history of making genocidal public statements; that favelas should be machine gunned to weed out drug traffickers; that Brazil needed a war with many casualties; that 30,000 needed to be killed for the country to function; that leftists should be machine gunned, and not treated like normal people; racist statements about quilombolas and indigenous peoples, and so on.

All of this was known to his foreign backers long before he ran for President. They didn’t care.

As Brazil faces the Novel Coronavirus Pandemic, Presdident Bolsonaro’s responses, like so much of his Governance, have defied logic, to the point that it has led some to wonder out loud if this is intentional. It’s as if, they argue, that he and his allies actually want to exacerbate the crisis, perhaps in order to protect and consolidate his power.

This may sound extreme and indeed paranoid, but the truth is that at this point we simply cannot predict how dark the current thinking is within a Bolsonaro circle under siege. Journalist Leonardo Attuch remarked “There is a consensus forming that we have a sociopath in the presidency.”

There have  been multiple requests that Bolsonaro be compelled to undergo psychiatric evaluation.

It was reported on Friday 13th March that Bolsonaro had tested positive for Coronavirus on a trip to the United States. This was confirmed on Fox News by his son Eduardo, who then immediately denied the story on social media. His father would, it was claimed, have two further tests, the results of which, they insisted were negative. Of his entourage on the US junket, 22 tested positive for the virus, as did a Florida Mayor with whom Bolsonaro met.

It seemed improbable that Jair Bolsonaro himself was not infected, yet the denials continued.

On March 15th the President broke his own Coronavirus quarantine to shake hands and take photographs with supporters outside the Planalto Palace. This was during pro-government demonstrations that he himself had called, which demanded closure of Congress and the Supreme Court – an auto-coup which had been threatened since even before he was elected.

It is estimated that each carrier of Coronavirus will infect three other people if social distancing measures are not taken. This means that each individual, after 10 degrees of infection will be the source for 59,000 new cases.

Even Health Minister Luiz Mandetta, who had briefly began to inspire some confidence with the public, was shouted down by the President for “politicising” a pandemic he was still effectively denying.

Bolsonaro finally admitted on Friday 20th March that he may have the virus, as media and public suspected.

Thus in making physical contact with a large group of people five days prior, he is responsible for endangering tens of thousands. And that is only in Brasilia. The protest he called brought his supporters, many of them elderly, out to the streets in large groups in cities across the country. As yet we cannot even estimate how many infections March 15th demonstrations will have been responsible for.

On 22nd Bolsonaro claimed once again that the public were being fooled about Coronavirus, and simultaneously announced that employers would have the right to cancel contracts and withhold salaries for four months, which would catapult millions more into desperate conditions. The move was reversed following a public outcry.

As of March 23rd, Datafolha polling showed 26% of the population saying they had no fear of the virus.

Disinformation from the President himself, his media outriders, his US-based guru Olavo de Carvalho, the Pied Piper of Brazil, whose video claiming that there had been no deaths from Coronavirus has now been taken down by YouTube, and the wildly powerful billionaire head of the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God, Edir Macedo, who called the virus harmless, and claimed that the media coverage of it was part of a satanic plot, in a message to his 7 million plus congregation, which has also since been taken off air.

In the past weeks, as the scale of the pandemic was already clear to the world, we have heard from Bolsonaro, his allies and his supporters that Coronavirus is a hoax, “communist”, and a “little flu”.

These messages are spread on social media and invisibly on the WhatsApp platform, which was infamously the primary channel used to deliver him votes at the 2018 election.

Such as sustained flow of disinformation to discourage public safety has extremely disturbing implications.

The population is being encouraged to endanger itself.

Many living packed tightly in the poorest remote regions, peripheral and inner city favelas, lack basic sanitation.

With Bolsonaro’s the banishing of Cuban medics that once served Brazils poorest, and a catastrophic freeze on investment in public health since the coup of 2016, these communities are a timebomb.

Brazil’s States and Municipalities have been attempting to implement their own defence strategies autonomously of the Bolsonaro Government, yet have been repeatedly overruled from Brasília. Gangs and Militias in Rio de Janeiro’s favelas have reportedly imposed curfews themselves in the absence of such action from Government.

A campaign to protect the Afro-Brazilian favela and periphery population from the virus is plain in its use of the word “genocide” to describe what they face from Covid-19.

Brazil’s economic capital, São Paulo, home to 22 million and the largest city in the Southern Hemisphere, has been described as a perfect storm for Covid-19, and its iconic Pacaembu Stadium has been converted into a field Hospital.

It will be a historical curiosity that ideological allies Donald Trump, Boris Johnson and Jair Bolsonaro all initially reacted to the Coronavirus in essentially similar ways; with denial, minimisation, inaction, all the way through to actually advocating the strategy of allowing the contagion to spread. At best incompetent and irresponsible, at worst criminally negligent and potentially responsible for countless unnecessary deaths.

When we survey this human disaster, we must not forget how Jair Bolsonaro came to be President of Brazil – with the support of the North Atlantic powers and foreign capital. During the election campaign, Wall Street insiders insisted there was “No room for sentiment” as Brazil hurtled towards a submissive form of Neofascism that would be wonderful for business.

Conversely, before Bolsonaro’s idol, Chilean General Augusto Pinochet, came to power via a bloody, genocidal coup in 1973, U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger had famously remarked:

“I don’t see why we need to stand by and watch a country go communist due to the irresponsibility of its people. The issues are much too important for the Chilean voters to be left to decide for themselves.”

History must show that culpability for the coming catastrophe is shared by those who enabled the sacking of Brazilian Democracy and assisted Bolsonaro’s rise to power.

This includes the US, UK, and Canadian Governments, and their craven propagandists in the corporate media.

We can only hope that the Brazilian people can overcome the struggles ahead, despite their President and his supporters.

The best chance Brazil has is that it can remove Jair Bolsonaro and his family from power, as soon as possible.