Bolsonaro—who now has the disease himself—has overseen one of the worst coronavirus death tolls in the world. But then, a war on human dignity is what he promised all alongby Julia Blunck / July 10, 2020 / Leave a comment
Who should we blame for Brazil’s death toll? According to the local press, coronavirus deaths now exceed 65,000. And this can only be an underestimate, thanks to a severe lack of proper testing and an even more severe surplus of statistical massaging by smart bureaucracy. A lack of autopsies, for example, often obscures the cause of death, which makes deaths from the virus hard to pick out. Right now, the country obsessed with football metaphors could fill a stadium with its coronavirus dead, most of them black or brown, most of them poor, all of them human beings. Who is to blame?
There is an obvious culprit, of course. With the debatable exception of Donald Trump, Jair Bolsonaro has taken the pandemic less seriously than any other world leader. At every level he has downplayed the threat, calling it “merely a flu.” He pointedly broke lockdown both personally, disregarding social distancing guidelines, and politically, trying to force governors to reopen their states. He has fired not one—but two successive health ministers, the second still not permanently replaced as I write.
This behaviour should not come as a surprise. For the same reason, we should not expect it to change, even now that Bolsonaro is confirmed to have tested positive for Covid-19 himself. Bolsonaro is many things, but he has been unfailingly sincere. He told the Brazilian people, time and time again, who he was and what he believed in. Supporters who took his rhetoric to be simply rallying cries against Workers’ Party welfare expansion, or strong words to emphasise law and order, were lying to themselves. Bolsonaro is a conspiracy theorist to the core. He truly sees it as his mission to defeat not only values such as diversity and human rights, but law and, perhaps above all, science. His attachment to hydroxychloroquine as a miracle cure and his open scorn for any measures that might stop the virus are not diversionary tactics but the practice of his foundational beliefs: he sees doctors and scientists as his natural enemy.
So it’s tempting to place the blame for our…