Brazil’s handling of COVID-19 illustrates the dangers of the far-right – Conservative Article
COVID-19 cases across Europe and Asia are steadily decreasing as the virus is controlled. However, the picture is very different in the Americas. Brazil in particular are seeing further outbreaks and rapidly growing numbers of cases and deaths. On 25th May, the WHO declared Brazil the new epicentre of the pandemic.
Last week, Brazil’s death toll overtook the UK’s. It now has the second-highest number of COVID related deaths, behind the US. The death toll currently stands at 55,000 with over 1 million cases. Estimates by the University of Washington expect the number of deaths to reach 125,000 in Brazil by August. These shocking statistics lead one to ask the question, how has South America’s largest economy fared so much worse than its less developed and poorer neighbours?
In my eyes, the blame rests with one person, president Jair Bolsonaro. Since the outbreak of the virus in January, Bolsonaro has dismissed its importance. He stated any concerns were mere “fantasy” and the “little flu” was nothing to be feared. In April, Bolsonaro came under heavy criticism for joining protests against state governors who had imposed lockdown measures to control the spread. Mr Bolsonaro branded restrictions on people’s movements as “dictatorial” and sacked his former health minister who encouraged lockdown measures.
Following this, in early June, the Bolsonaro administration came under fire for wiping the health ministry’s website of all data relating to the pandemic. They also announced they would no longer publish the daily death toll or number of new infections. The decision to suppress and censor the data prompted backlash across all of Brazilian society, from citizens to medical associations and other politicians. The government faced accusations of being authoritarian and inhuman.
Following legal challenges from three political parties, a supreme court justice gave the government 48 hours to re-establish the data for public health interests. The data has now been reinstated. However, Bolsonaro continues to accuse the media of “sensationalising” the pandemic.
Bolsonaro’s manipulation of important information and preventing it reaching the public is just one example of the far-right agenda he has pursued since taking up the presidency in early 2019. Dubbed the “Trump of the Tropics” Bolsonaro has loosened gun ownership laws, slammed the media for promoting ‘fake news’ and a left-wing agenda, branded immigrants ‘scum of the earth’ and publicly said he would prefer a dead son to a gay one.
Like Trump, critics did not think Bolsonaro would win the presidency because of his outlandish far-right policies. At the centre of his presidential campaign was the nationalist slogan “Brazil before everything”. Many have paralleled this to Trump’s “Make America Great Again”. His goals are economically oriented and he built his campaign on promising to rid the Brazilian government of corruption and crime.
Police in Brazil have adopted a ‘policy of confrontation’ since Bolsonaro’s government took charge. They have introduced heavily armed officers and helicopter snipers to tackle crime. The police’s impunity to kill now means that on average in Rio de Janeiro, 5 people are killed by the police every day.
The oppressive nature of the police force under Bolsonaro is one of the most alarming aspects of his authoritarian leadership. Even prior to the current crisis, Brazil’s government followed through on the promises critics of Bolsonaro feared most. This resulted in dire consequences for Brazil’s environment, marginalised and vulnerable groups and the dismantling of democratic institutions.
Bolsonaro has again followed Trump’s lead in expressing his desire to withdraw Brazil from the WHO. He has also criticised the UN health agency, stating the public does not need opinions from outside the country. Unfortunately for Brazilians, the average death toll is still around 1000 a day and experts predict the peak is yet to come.
Censoring his country’s data on the pandemic from citizens shows a corrupt government doing the very thing it promised to rid from Brazilian politics. Clearly, opposition parties in Brazil are not strong enough to prevent Bolsonaro’s extremist laws coming into existence. In addition, his desire to leave the WHO removes another check on his government’s power.
Leaders such as Bolsonaro, Trump, Orban and Putin are becoming all too common across the world and show a dangerous resurgence of the far-right. The international community must apply pressure to these leaders, particularly in times of crisis, to prioritise the lives and safety of their citizens. What has happened in Brazil is nothing short of genocide and a tragic example of the grave impacts a far-right government can have.
Written by Conservative Writer, Emer Kelly
Point of Information
Economy vs morality; they aren’t stupid, just selfish – a Liberal response
We have seen a huge increase in far-right populism globally since 2015. The UK, US, Europe and even South America have felt this wave with a particular effect. We are now seeing the major impacts of populism in these countries. Their leaders aren’t stupid, they are using their rhetoric to protect their own interests. Now we see the effect of their ulterior motives.
The question that the Coronavirus boils down to is economy vs morality. Most countries have had major shutdowns in order to protect their citizens. However, the economy has taken a massive hit. Frankly, as a government, it should be their moral duty to shutdown. However, not all countries have done this. Brazil is still prioritising their economy. The UK is starting to do the same. The UK is decreasing restrictions too fast and Leicester will now pay the price with their own lockdown.
The US too has done it to an extreme case. No lockdown, no impact on the economy in theory. For millionaires like Trump that is what they want. This is the same for Brazil. I believe this is what Emer has missed. The reason for their selfishness due to their obsession with personal wealth. All populists are guilty of this. Save their wealth, not lives.
The UK is becoming guilty of this in recent weeks. Brazil’s President Bolsonaro is guilty of this. President Trump is guilty of this. Elon Musk is guilty of this. However, the irony is that countries who have put their citizens first are seeing their economies grow again. America, Brazil and probably the UK will be left shutout of all future international trading until they take this seriously. They have truly shot themselves in the foot.
Written by Liberal Writer, Max Anderson
The devastating consequences of right-wing populism in Brazil – a Labour response
In light of the pandemic, it has become more and more grimly apparent that right-wing populism is a deadly ideology. Loud, outspoken anti-establishment figures have popped up across the globe, from the UK to the Philippines. Whilst many may find it refreshing to see a politician speak his mind, Jair Bolsonaro has clearly demonstrated how harmful brash responses can be.
This braggadocious posturing was widespread at the beginning of the crisis. Boris Johnson’s disgraceful under-reaction and delayed response cost countless lives. Donald Trump’s premature drive to reopen the American economy has resulted in a dangerous second spike. Bolsonaro’s disregard for science and reason and his blatant corruption is horrifying but becoming increasingly familiar on the world stage.
The role of the outspoken strongman was once limited to dictatorships like those of Gaddafi or Mugabe. However, the 21st century has seen some of the most powerful democracies on the planet fall under the spell of demagoguery.
I can only hope that the immense damage caused by the leaders of Brazil, the USA and the UK will sound the death knell of this kind of leadership. As Professor Richard Heydarian states, the pandemic “has exposed the hollowness of right-wing populism“. People deserve sensible, compassionate governance, and the likes of Brazil’s President are utterly incapable of providing anything close to that.
Written by Labour Writer, Max Ingleby