Cartoons Mar 25, 2020

Bolsonaro is striking his own country

President Bolsonaro has said, time and again, that governments’ concerns about the lethality of the novel coronavirus are exaggerated. But a report by The Intercept shows that the Brazilian Intelligence Agency has produced a confidential brief warning the government and state administrations of a potentially catastrophic scenario for the country in the upcoming weeks, with deaths and infections skyrocketing.

The agency defends containment measures—which the president has opposed. “South Korea, Iran, and China managed to flatten the curve, probably after adopting such measures,” says the report.

Using the cases of Italy, China, and Iran as a baseline, the brief says Brazil could reach April 6 with over 207,000 infections and nearly 5,600 deaths from Covid-19. If the virus’ progression in Brazil is similar to its path in France or Germany—countries that adopted restrictions on movement and commerce—deaths would amount to 2,000 by April 6.

The Brazilian Intelligence Agency operates under the president’s institutional security department, headed by former Army General Augusto Heleno—who himself has tested positive for Covid-19.

Also, Mr. Bolsonaro told reporters that he intends to adopt a “vertical isolation” strategy against the coronavirus. That approach focuses on only isolating clusters of the population that are more likely to die or suffer severe damage from Covid-19: senior citizens, those with pre-existing conditions, or autoimmune problems.

Just like U.S. President Donald Trump, Mr. Bolsonaro has positioned himself adamantly against the “horizontal isolation” approach currently employed by many countries around the world—in which governments restrict movement and commerce of the entire population, without discriminating according to risk. Amid the crisis, Brazil’s Health Minister Luiz Henrique Mandetta has gone from unknown cabinet member to one of the most popular figures of the federal administration. 

Background reading

The latest news on the coronavirus outbreak in Brazil in real-time.

Tracking Covid-19 in Latin America

The coronavirus risks within Brazil’s presidency

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