In Brazil, the head of state and head of government are the same person: Jair Bolsonaro. Similar to Trump in the U.S., Bolsonaro did not take the outbreak serious in the slightest. Both men perceived early COVID-19 stories as a tool being used mostly against them, as political talking points, rather than a media’s sincere concern over what’s to come. Seemingly, it may be the reason why both men felt their country was safe from the new virus. More recently, Trump as been taking this more seriously. As for Bolsonaro, he spoke to the nation and stated that he is unafraid of catching the disease. If he did, he said, it would just be a “little cold” and he’d be fine. The message immediately became: Bolsonaro calls COVID-19 a “little cold”. (Rapoza, 2020) He has outraged many Brazilians by downplaying the virus, as he initially describes as a “fantasy,” and joining a crowd of supporters and shaking handshakes and taking selfies earlier this month, at a time he was supposed to be in isolation. Brazilians have begun protesting against him at night, by drumming pots and pans from their windows at agreed times.
Now, less than a month after the coronavirus arrived, with the country reporting more than 1,000 cases and double-digit deaths, the president is still struggling to adopt an air of urgency. As a consequence, the political establishment seems to be taking steps to isolate Bolsonaro. “We will vote on the issues that Brazil needs not because of the president, but despite the president,” said Sen. Sergio Olimpio, a Bolsonaro ally who has grown estranged from the president in recent months. (Andreoni, 2020)
Brazil’s economy still has not recovered from a recession in 2015 to 2016, and the country cannot survive a sustained stoppage. In the endeavor to contain the crisis, Bolsonaro’s government announced a $30 billion package of financial measures and closing almost all of Brazil’s land borders to visitors. Still, Bolsonaro is holding back on more rigorous measures, saying that he fears Brazil would turn into Venezuela if its economy comes to halt. He continues to criticize Brazil’s state governors for taking “extreme measures”; which includes the governor of the state of Sao Paolo, home of Brazil’s largest city. He has declared a public emergency and ordered the closure of all nonessential services until the end of next month. Rio de Janeiro’s governor is pressing for still stronger measures, including canceling all international flights and domestic flights from other Brazilian states with the virus. He’s already ordered many closures, including Rio’s normally popular tourist spots and beaches. If the economy takes an extreme downturn as a result of COVID-19, Bolsonaro is likely to point fingers to blame Brazil’s governors when it comes time for reelection in 2.5 years; if he makes til then.
Andreoni, M. (2020, March 22). Brazilian’s turn against Bolsonaro for government’s handling of the coronavirus crisis.
Retreived from https://www.latimes.com/world-nation/story/2020-03-22/brazilians-turn-against-bolsonaro-for-governments-handling-of-coronavirus-crisis
Rapoza, K. (2020, March 29). In Coronavirus Versus Brazil, Bolsonaro Stands Almost Alone.
Retreived from https://www.forbes.com/sites/kenrapoza/2020/03/29/in-coronavirus-versus-brazil-bolsonaro-stands-almost-alone/#5d132758242c