Commentary. The theologian, writer and politician Frei Betto sounds the alarm on the humanitarian disaster in Brazil. He says Bolsonaro is intentionally letting the epidemic spread to kill the elderly and the poor.

Bolsonaro is committing genocide in Brazil

Dear friends, a genocide is taking place in Brazil.

At the time I’m writing, on July 16, COVID, present here since February, has already killed 76,000 people. There are almost 2 million infected. This Sunday, July 19, we’ll reach 80,000 victims. And it’s possible that by the time you read this appeal, there will be 100,000 casualties.

When I remember that 58,000 American soldiers were sacrificed in the Vietnam War, in the course of 20 years of history, I am aware of the gravity of the situation in my country. And this horror brings forward indignation and revolt. And we know that the precautionary and restrictive measures taken in so many other countries could have prevented such a high number of deaths.

This genocide is the result of the indifference of the Bolsonaro government. It is an intentional genocide. Bolsonaro welcomes the death of others. In an interview in 1999, when he was a federal deputy, he said: “You are not going to change this country by voting, in no way at all! The country will change if there is a civil war and if we do what the military dictatorship did not do: kill 30 million people!”  When he voted for the impeachment of President Dilma, Bolsonaro dedicated his vote to the memory of the Army’s most notorious torturer, Colonel Brilhante Ustra.

And he is so obsessed with death that one of the main policies of the government is the liberation of the arms trade. When interviewed at the entrance to the Presidential Palace and asked if he didn’t care about all the victims of the pandemic, Bolsonaro replied: “I don’t believe in these numbers” (March 7, 92 dead); “We will all die one day” (March 29, 136 dead); “And what can I do about it?” (April 28, 5,071 dead).

Why this “death-loving” policy? From the beginning, Bolsonaro has said that the important thing was to save the economy, not human lives. As a result, he refused to declare a lockdown and to adopt the WHO guidelines and did not import respirators and personal protective equipment. In the end, it took a ruling by the Supreme Court, which delegated this responsibility regarding public health to governors and mayors. Bolsonaro did not even respect the authority of his health ministers.

Since February, two health ministers have been dismissed because they disagreed with the president’s line. Now, General Pazuello is Health Minister, someone who understands nothing about health. Moreover, Bolsonaro has tried to hide the death toll, he has employed 38 soldiers without the necessary qualifications in important ministerial functions, and he has cancelled all the daily interviews through which the population was being given guidance.

It would be superfluous to add that all the measures to help low-income families (i.e. more than 100 million Brazilians) were never implemented.

The government’s criminal intentions are clear. They want to let the elderly die in order to save on social security. To let those affected by chronic diseases die to save on healthcare spending. To let the poor die in order to save money for the “Bolsa Familia” assistance program and other social programs for the 52.5 million poor living in poverty and the 13.5 million living in absolute poverty (according to data from the federal government itself).

Not satisfied with these measures, the President vetoed a law passed on July 3, repealing the legal rule requiring the use of masks in shops open to the public, schools and places of worship. He struck down the fines imposed on those who do not comply with these provisions and eliminated the government’s obligation to distribute masks to the poorest, who are the main victims of COVID, and the prison population. In any case, these vetoes could not cancel other provisions of local legislation requiring the use of masks.

On July 8, Bolsonaro vetoed a law approved by the Senate that would have forced the government to provide drinking water, hygiene and cleaning materials, Internet connectivity, food packages, seeds and agricultural hardware to indigenous villages and quilombos (black communities of African descendants).

He has also “frozen” the emergency funds for indigenous health, as well as the support provided for indigenous villagers and quilombos, which would have gotten the sum of 600 reais (100-120 dollars) for three months. He also eliminated the government’s obligation to provide more hospital beds and medical equipment (oxygen masks, etc.) to indios and quilombos.

Indios and quilombos have been decimated due to increasing social and environmental devastation, especially in the Amazon.

Please spread the word about these crimes against humanity! It is absolutely necessary that the denunciations about what is happening in Brazil should reach your governments, digital networks, the UN Human Rights Council and the Hague Tribunal, as well as banks and companies doing business with Brazil.

Even before The Economist did so, I have been describing Bolsonaro online as a new Emperor Nero. As Rome burns, he is playing the lyre and making propaganda for chloroquine, which scientifically has no effectiveness against the coronavirus—however, its makers are allies of President Bolsonaro!

Thank you for sharing this letter. Only international pressure can stop the genocide that is devastating our beloved and wonderful country.

Subscribe to our newsletter

Your weekly briefing of progressive news.

You have Successfully Subscribed!