Current DateSeptember 19, 2021

Coronavirus: the situation seems out of control in Brazil

The country of samba is no longer celebrating. As America has become the new epicenter of the pandemic, according to the WHO, Brazil is attracting all attention and concern.

According tot the latest Covid-19 reports, the country of samba is the second country most affected by the pandemic behind the United States. It has 2,292,286 confirmed cases  and 84,251 deaths out of nearly 210 million inhabitants. In relation to the population, Brazil has 400 deaths per 1 million inhabitants, which is less than most European countries (Belgium, United Kingdom and in particular France). However, the high rate of confirmation of new cases is alarming, the number of new contamination continues to increase until reaching a peak on June 26 of 191,700 cases of Covid-19 recorded that day. The pandemic seems out of control.

During a round table organized by the Foreign Affairs Committee of the National Assembly, on June 25, the professor of global health ethics at the University of Sao Paulo (Brazil), Deisy Ventura described the situation as “avoidable carnage” and believes that the Amerindian peoples of the Amazon suffer a “genocide” for lack of access to healthcare. “Brazil has a unique health system [Editor’s note: compared to other countries of the South American continent] it provides for universal access to the public health system and considers it a right linked to citizenship and this has been included within the Federal Constitution “she assures French deputies.

However, according to her, Brazilian policies have weakened this system, in particular by imposing economic austerity measures to limit “its chronic funding deficit” by “setting a ceiling on public health spending from 2017”. According to the researcher these measures have stopped or weakened “the most effective health programs of the single health system.”

But the poor economic health of Brazilian public hospitals cannot alone explain the confusion that reigns in the country. President Jair Bolsonaro, who called Covid-19 a “little flu” is accused of downplaying the severity of the pandemic. Despite alerts from the WHO or the international community, Jair Bolsonaro, like Donald Trump, politicized the health crisis against the advice of his own advisers.

After the resignation of two ministers of health, he placed a soldier – without recognized medical competence – at the head of the ministry of health. “The reality of the pandemic was revealed very early on by experts in Brazil,” says Olivier Dabène, president of the Political Observatory for Latin America and the Caribbean at CERI (France). However, President Bolsonaro denied it, for two main reasons: his religious beliefs, which led him to give no credit to science, and his desire not to slow down the slow economic recovery that was scheduled for 2020. “

Consequently, the Federal President seems to be waging a “political war” against the governors of the Brazilian federated states who are trying to put in place measures of social distancing or encourage the wearing of masks. He does not hesitate to contradict them and urge the population not to respect health measures to limit the crisis.

This political crisis seems to be turning into a vast legal affair. “The Supreme Court recognized […] in its decision of April 15, 2020 the competence of governors and mayors to legislate in the matter. This is a political confrontation whose main issue is the economic and even electoral impacts of containment measures, explains Deisy Ventura. The political tension in Brazil is maximum and unfortunately the governors seem to give in to certain pressures. ”

The researcher counts nearly 3,000 legal cases related to Covid-19 presented to the Supreme Court of the country. She is worried about the long-term effects of this judicialization of health in Brazil. “Some legal decisions allow an exemption from the salary payment during the pandemic,” she reports. The judicial spaces are transformed into battlefields between the groups which support the containment measures and those which attack them. It is too early to say in which direction goes this judicialization: towards more protection, rights and freedoms or the opposite. “

In the favelas amid the curfew monitored by organized crime networks
and the cacophony among the officials, the populace remains divided. Rumors, political fever but also dependence on an informal economic system prevent many inhabitants from limiting their movements.

“The first few weeks, people were disciplined,” ensures Christian Pouillaude, a blogger for Courrier international. “After three weeks, things started to get chaotic…” According to Le Monde, 38 million Brazilians depend on the informal sector. The Chamber of Deputies voted for exceptional aid until July. “But in some neighborhoods, however, the persistence of organized crime adds to local political instability, as well as the refusal of direct state intervention to help populations, assures Olivier Debène. Three Cariocas favelas see thus their curfew ensured within the framework of the quarantine by the Comando Vermelho, one of the largest organized crime networks in Brazil. At the beginning of April, the economic support voted by the Chamber had still not reached the Brazilian popular districts. “

Divided, Brazil seems incapable of effectively organizing its fight against the pandemic and yet the southern winter must set in in the coming weeks, suggesting new waves of contamination and death.