Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has mishandled his country’s coronavirus outbreak so badly that it’s possible over 1 million people in Brazil have contracted the disease. Despite this crisis, he’s continued to downplay Covid-19’s severity and his own powers to do anything about it.
Bolsonaro has referred to the novel coronavirus as the “little flu” and scoffed at social distancing measures intended to slow the spread of the virus, proclaiming in late March that “we’ll all die one day.” He’s called on citizens to go back to work, directly contradicting the orders of state governors and the recommendations of his public health experts. His minimization of the problem has saddled the country of more than 200 million people, South America’s largest, with the continent’s worst outbreak.
It’s no surprise, then, that people inside and outside of Brazil have noticed his disastrous and dangerous performance. The Brazilian Report, an online news outlet focused on the country, released a video Friday afternoon starkly showing just how bad it really is.
Over 90 seconds, the video tracks the exponential growth of confirmed coronavirus cases and deaths in the country. As the curve grows, some dates are punctuated with Bolsonaro’s quotes, highlighting his indifference to public health concerns.
“It’s overstated,” he said of the threat on March 9. “We can’t do more than we’re already doing,” he stated on March 23. “Everyone will die someday,” he proclaimed on March 29. And, as if in self-parody, he brushed off calls for him to act by quipping on April 28, “So what? I’m sorry. What do you want me to do?”
The larger tragedy still: Bolsonaro is unlikely to change his approach to the crisis — in part because his attention is divided.
He’s embroiled in political scandals that threaten his presidency. The president’s son Flávio, a state senator, has been under investigation for some time for an alleged money-laundering scheme in which he is accused of using public funds to pay nonexistent employees, including at a chocolate shop in Rio de Janeiro. And popular Justice Minister Sérgio Moro resigned after Bolsonaro fired the chief of the federal police, Maurício Valeixo, without a clear reason.
During his exit speech, Moro accused Bolsonaro of trying to meddle in law enforcement, saying the president had fired Valeixo because he wanted “a person he could be in touch with personally, whom he could call directly, from whom he could receive information, intelligence reports.”
That roiling political fire will likely distract Bolsonaro for weeks, not that he’d taken the crisis seriously before then. Which means the people of Brazil may continue to suffer under their president’s poor leadership in the days to come — in which case any updates to the above video may have a steeper curve and more damning quotes.