During the Covid-19 pandemic, Brazil’s far-right President Jair Bolsonaro has embodied the role of coronavirus denialist perfectly. Besides calling the disease a “little flu” and ignoring social distancing rules, the president has actively put those around him at risk.
For the longest time, mask use was strictly frowned upon within federal government buildings. Sources report the president saying that “masks are for faggots,” and reprimanding any of his employees that sought to protect themselves from the virus.
His dislike for masks and distancing have even led to internal rifts. Upon meeting with Army commander Edson Pujol last year, the official offered Mr. Bolsonaro an elbow bump instead of a traditional handshake, and the pair have not seen eye to eye since. In fact, Pujol was fired earlier this year.
Now, it appears that President Bolsonaro’s personal war on anti-coronavirus measures has extended to vaccination. This week, a leaked conversation showed four-star Army general and Government Secretary Luiz Eduardo Ramos confessing that he took his Covid-19 vaccine in secret, to “avoid making a scene” and escape the wrath of Mr. Bolsonaro.
The president himself has been reluctant to take a vaccine, despite internal and external pressure. This week, he reiterated his intention of being “the last Brazilian to be vaccinated,” but his declaration did not play as he had hoped. Intending to portray himself as something of a martyr, allowing the rest of the population to receive vaccines ahead of him, Mr. Bolsonaro’s words were taken as plain old vaccine skepticism.
After minister Ramos’ revelation, it remains to be seen how many other members of the Bolsonaro cabinet have received vaccines in secret. Perhaps that will be one of many issues to be brought to light in the Senate’s ongoing Covid-19 inquiry.