By Eduardo Davis
Brasilia, May 15 (efe-epa).- The leader of the opposition Workers’ Party (PT) in Brazil’s Senate said President Jair Bolsonaro is putting that South American country and the entire region at risk by downplaying the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
Rogerio Carvalho made his remarks in a telephone interview with Efe.
“With the way he’s leading this health crisis, Bolsonaro is a threat to Brazilians, to democracy itself and to all neighboring countries,” said the senator of that leftist political grouping that was founded by ex-President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and now is the main minority party in Brazil’s Congress.
A 51-year-old physician, Carvalho said the rightist head of state’s actions reflect “a vision of complete denial of the science and the lessons the world has already learned from the pandemic,” adding that Bolsonaro has ignored how highly contagious the novel coronavirus is and its “impact on people’s lives.”
Covid-19 has spread rapidly in Brazil since the first case was detected there on Feb. 26, with the country now reporting 200,000 confirmed cases and more than 13,900 deaths.
“We still don’t know what this virus will mean for the future of the world, at least not until we have a vaccine,” Carvalho said. Even so, Bolsonaro “keeps promoting exposure” to the virus by frequently attending demonstrations in which he and his supporters demand that Brazilian states such as Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo immediately reopen their economies.
The senator recalled that Bolsonaro recently visited the Supreme Court building in Brasilia along with a group of business leaders as part of his bid to press for an end to stay-at-home orders by governors and mayors that his administration says are putting the country on the brink of an economic collapse.
“He goes to the Supreme Court with business leaders, questions the confinement (orders) and pressures for a reopening, invents what he calls ‘vertical quarantine’ (stay-at-home measures only for at-risk groups) and sells the hope of hydroxychloroquine,” the senator said.
(Carvalho was referring to a drug long used to prevent and treat malaria whose effectiveness – in combination with the antibiotic azithromycin – in improving clinical outcomes for Covid-19 patients is currently being evaluated in a clinical trial by the United States’ National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases but has not yet been scientifically proven.)
The senator hailed the management of the health crisis in the neighboring countries of Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay, whose national governments have imposed strict lockdowns that have kept the pandemic under control thus far.
In that regard, he said those three countries and other neighboring nations will not reopen their borders with Brazil as long as Bolsonaro’s government maintains its current attitude toward Covid-19 and the disease continues to spread, adding that “viruses never respect national boundaries.”
Bolsonaro “is betting on chaos to impose an authoritarian regime” that, like the pandemic, “will be a threat to all of South America,” according to the senator, who said a virus cannot be combated with ideology.
“There’s no ideology against the virus, but Bolsonaro sells ideology with Covid-19, when he himself is an institutional virus that affects the lives of Brazilians,” Carvalho said.
He said the opposition – now in the minority in both houses of Congress – is currently coordinating an effort aimed at impeaching Bolsonaro, though acknowledging that the political climate is not conducive to such a move at this time.
Among other factors, he noted that polls show around 30 percent of Brazilians still approve of Bolsonaro and that the pandemic is preventing large gatherings of people and therefore making it difficult to gauge the level of societal discontent.
Even so, Carvalho said that both from a legal and political standpoint the conditions already exist for seeking the president’s removal from office.
He cited an ongoing investigation of Bolsonaro for an allegedly politically motivated effort to interfere in Federal Police probes involving his family members and accusations that he violated campaign finance laws during his run to the presidency in 2018 by using a purported criminal network to spread fake news on social media.
But “his biggest crime is his systematic attack on life” since the pandemic arrived in Brazil, the senator said.
“With the predictable worsening of the health crisis, with the disaster at the door, the increase in the number of deaths and the suffering of the population, I think that in September or October it will be impossible” not to subject Bolsonaro to an impeachment trial, Carvalho said.