Even if you are not a football fan, you may well have seen the image of Brazil’s captain Cafu holding the golden World Cup trophy aloft in 2002, the country’s fifth world title. In fact, as the story goes, the gesture of lifting a trophy above one’s head was invented by a Brazilian: national team captain Hilderaldo Bellini back in the 1958 World Cup final. Mobbed by journalists at the end of the match, one photographer asked the champion to lift the trophy high above his head, so he could get a better picture. Ever since, it has been the iconic gesture of celebration, inside and outside of sport.
Why, then, would anyone be repeating such a celebratory act during a global pandemic, which has killed more than 81,000 Brazilians? Well, you should ask President Jair Bolsonaro. At the weekend, instead of a trophy, Mr. Bolsonaro held a small box of antimalarial drug hydroxychloroquine above his head, before a mob of his faithful supporters in Brasilia.
Since contracting Covid-19 two weeks ago, President Bolsonaro claims he has been taking hydroxychloroquine every day, and has tipped the drug as a potential cure for the disease. Odd, then, that after two weeks of taking hydroxychloroquine, the president is still testing positive. Nevertheless, this is a country in which almost one in five citizens believes that Bolsonaro’s elixir is in fact the cure for Covid-19.
According to Marcos Calliari, head of polling institute Ipsos Brazil, Brazil has the second-highest rate of believers among 16 surveyed countries, behind India, where 37 percent trust in the drug. Not to mention those who believe that garlic has some kind of healing power against the virus.
“Chloroquine, chloroquine,” the crowd yelled, while Jair Bolsonaro turned the box of the medicine into a trophy. While perhaps ludicrous to outsiders, it is but another day in Brazil under President Bolsonaro.