Written by Rehmat Kaur, a grade 9 student.
The Coronavirus pandemic has resulted in strict quarantines in countries all over the world. Everywhere, leaders are encouraging their people to stay at home and maintain social distancing. One notable exception, however, is the President of Brazil. From the very beginning, Jair Bolsonaro has brushed aside the gravity of the pandemic and has encouraged citizens to continue their lives as normal. His dismissal of the lockdown imposed by Brazilian government officials has resulted in Brazil being one of the most affected countries in the world, with around 500,000 confirmed cases. The country’s death toll is increasing considerably every day and now, people are protesting against Bolsonaro’s casual response to the Coronavirus.
Jair Bolsonaro was elected President of Brazil in October 2018 and came into power in 2019. He is the first President of Brazil with far-right views in 16 years. Brazil has the sixth largest population in the world and is considered to be a developing country. Under Bolsonaro, the crime rates in Brazil decreased due to stricter law enforcement, and the economy also improved. However, there were claims that deforestation of Brazilian forests doubled after he came into power. According to a survey in January 2020, Bolsonaro’s popularity had declined since the time he was elected. After his reaction to the COVID-19 pandemic, approval ratings from the public worsened, to the extent that citizens wanted him to be impeached.
When the Coronavirus first became a threat, Bolsonaro dismissed it as “a little cold” and stated that Brazilians were resilient enough to fight it. As public health officials attempted to put strict quarantine measures in place, Bolsonaro actively scorned them and participated in protests against lockdown in Brazil. In April, Brazilian Health Minister Luiz Henrique Mandetta was fired by Bolsonaro for disagreeing with him over the necessity for social distancing. Nelson Teich replaced Mandetta, only to leave a few weeks later due to the same reason. Several other government officials have publicly spoken out against the President’s disregard for his people’s safety. According to Bolsonaro, he could not shut down the Brazilian economy for the sake of what he considered a minor threat. He even went to the extent of blocking ventilators from entering the country. Even now, with the number of cases soaring, Bolsonaro wishes for things in Brazil to return to normal and wants football training to be resumed in the country.
The consequences of Jair Bolsonaro’s attitude are reflected in the present situation in Brazil. It is the second most affected country, after the US and has near 30,000 reported deaths. Citizens are protesting and ‘Fora Bolsonaro’, which translates to ‘Go away Bolsonaro’, is becoming an increasingly popular slogan and hashtag on the internet. Bolsonaro has already attracted attention in the past for his racist and extreme views, but his response to the Coronavirus pandemic may mean the end of his presidency in Brazil.
Brazil’s GDP (Gross Domestic Product) has dropped by 1.5% in this quarter of the year. People are predicting an economic breakdown in Brazil. The country was already facing high unemployment rates and a struggling economy after a severe economic crisis in 2014. Although there was slight economic growth after Bolsonaro’s presidency, Brazil’s economic situation was delicate even before the pandemic. Now thousands of people are left impoverished and unable to do their job. Bolsonaro still doesn’t grasp the urgency of the situation and while his citizens are distracted by the ongoing crisis, he is encouraging further deforestation of the Amazon Rainforest. Although he is prioritizing the economy to his people’s safety, his policies seem to benefit neither.
With no strategy to lower the curve and control the spread of the virus, the number of COVID-19 cases in Brazil continues to rise. Bolsonaro’s policies against social distancing and his denial of the severity of the virus have led the country and its people to a disaster. As the President, he is the figure people turn to in a crisis and he has let his citizens down by encouraging them to do the opposite of what is required. In a time like this, the last thing Brazil needs is for its citizens to protest against their President. With his attitude, however, he leaves them no choice.
Written by Rehmat Kaur
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