One year after the first case of Covid was recorded in the country, the Brazilian health system is experiencing its most dramatic moment. Anticipated by the tragedy in Manaus, with doctors forced to resort to manual ventilation due to lack of oxygen, the new wave has hit Brazil hard, bringing the number of infected to about 10.5 million and the number of deaths to almost 253,000.
More than a thousand people have been dying every day for more than a month, with a record 1,582 deaths on Thursday, while the intensive care units in the hospitals of 17 regional capitals are more than 80% occupied. “We have never experienced such a serious situation,” said Bahia State Governor Rui Costa, expressing fears that the country could plunge into chaos within two weeks. All the more so in the face of the slowdown in the vaccination campaign, due to the government’s well-known delays in purchasing vaccines.
Even the Minister of Health is concerned—the incompetent General Eduardo Pazuello, under investigation for his scandalous management of the health emergency in Manaus and already rumored to be facing dismissal—but always ready to shift the blame onto something else, whether that’s the humid climate or the fragile hospital infrastructure of the Amazonian city or the new variants of the virus.
“The mutated virus is three times more contagious, and the speed with which it’s spreading can put the healthcare structure in crisis,” warned the minister, whose main achievement has been—as noted by the writer Eric Nepomuceno—to place military personnel in the posts at the Ministry of Health “previously occupied by doctors, researchers and scientists.”
Bolsonaro’s attitude hasn’t changed even in the face of the new wave. After lashing out against masks because they supposedly hurt children, he went on a visit to Ceará, creating the usual gatherings and criticizing the new restrictions on movement ordered by governors in the face of the new wave: “People want to work. The governors who close everything and destroy jobs trample on the will of the people.” And, the president threatened, they should be paying for the emergency subsidy that will be paid again from March to the poorest sections of the population: “They cannot continue to play politics and dump that responsibility on the shoulders of the President of the Republic.”
However, even beyond the ongoing health “tragedy,” as WHO Emergency Director Mike Ryan has called it, there is no doubt that the country is going through one of the darkest phases of its history, in which the dismantling of all the achievements made since the return of democracy in 1985 is going hand in hand with an increasing militarization.
In fact, according to a report by the Court of Auditors, the number of military personnel in all levels of government has more than doubled under Bolsonaro, from 2,765 to 6,157. And there are those like former president Dilma Rousseff, who speak with alarm of numbers as high as 11,000: “You can’t think that it will be easy to remove 11,000 military personnel from the government and have them return to their barracks,” she warned.
The extent to which the military’s prominence on the political scene has risen has been clearly seen in their outrageous interference in the judiciary in relation to the Lula case, which has once again come to the fore with the revelations published in the book by former army commander Eduardo Villas Bôas, the great strategist of Bolsonaro’s victory.
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