Coronavirus NORTH EAST

“War Operation”: Communist Party-run Maranhão State imports Chinese ventilators in secret, via Ethiopia

In what has been called a “war operation”, the Communist Party-run Brazilian state of Maranhão has purchased Chinese ventilators to fight the Covid-19 pandemic and shipped them via Ethiopia, to evade possible confiscation by the US or Brazil’s own Federal Government.

Folha de S.Paulo reports that the Northeastern state of Maranhão, under Communist Party of Brazil governor Flavio Dino, has purchased ventilators directly from China, then in a strategic maneouvre had them shipped via Ethiopia, to avoid detection, diversion or confiscation en-route.

Folha describes the state mounting a “war operation” to deliver the ventilators to Maranhão, in virtual secrecy, after incidents of the United States seizing ventilators – essential for the fight against Covid-19 – en-route to countries in Latin American and the Caribbean, including Brazil itself.

“For the plan to transport 107 ventilators and 200,000 masks from China, the Maranhão government needed to set up what has been called a “war operation” involving 30 people and costing R$6 million Reais. The logistics were drawn up after they had tried to to purchase the ventilators a few times and had been crossed by Germany, the USA and Brazil’s federal government itself.”

The hand of Maranhão’s PCdoB State Government was forced by their experiences during the pandemic so far. In March they reserved a batch of ventilators from the southern Brazilian state of Santa Catarina, but the federal government blocked the transaction and commandeered the ventilators for their own use. Flavio Dino’s Government then looked to China, reserving a further 150 ventilators only for Germany to intervene with a higher payment. The Maranhenses agony would continue, with the United States interfering in their negotiations, as it did in the Bahian government’s attempts to procure the essential health equipment.

Then, with the help of an import company from the state, the Maranhão government  began negotiations with a company in Guangzhou, China, which sent the ventilators first to Ethiopia, with the aim of escaping the radar of Europe and the USA.

Upon their eventual arrival in São Paulo, the shipment, which had not yet cleared customs, was placed on a chartered plane from Brazilian carrier Azul, and flown 3000 kilometres north to Maranhão. It was feared that if customs clearance was carried out in São Paulo, the federal government would simply confiscate the ventilators.

In total the operation lasted 20 days and the equipment landed in Maranhão capital São Luís on Tuesday 14th April.

“If we didn’t do it that way, it would take us three months to get this number of ventilators. As soon as the equipment arrived, we already connected them to expand our offer of ICU beds,” State Secretary of Industry and Commerce, Simplício Araújo, told Folha.

Maranhão, with its tropical climate, is facing a unique fight against Coronavirus. As of April 16 2020, it has around 700 cases, and 60% of the state’s ICU beds are occupied. On March 31, Brasil Wire interviewed Dr. Rodrigo Lopes, former director of the state’s public hospital system, who is currently serving as special advisor to State Health Secretary Carlos Lula.

Governors of the 9 Northeastern states of Brazil have formed an alliance called Concórcio Nordeste who have effectively gone it alone against Covid-19 in the face of President Bolsonaro’s disastrous response, for which there have been widespread calls for the extreme-right leader’s resignation.