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BRAZIL | 'So what?' asks Bolsonaro as 5,000 die from COVID-19 in Brazil

“So what?” Jair Bolsonaro told reporters when asked about the record 474 deaths that day. “I’m sorry. What do you want me to do?” “So what?” Jair Bolsonaro told reporters when asked about the record 474 deaths that day. “I’m sorry. What do you want me to do?”
BRAZILIA, May 2, 2020 - "So what? I'm sorry. What do you want me to do?" said Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro on Tuesday when questioned about his country passing the 5,000-death mark, more than China.

This response from the Brazilian ‘far-right’ president, prompted a fierce firestorm of anger and controversy, not only in Brazil, but across Latin and Central America.

He joked that even though his middle name is Messias, or Messiah, "I don't do miracles."

Bolsonaro's "So what?" has "underscored how little importance he has attached to the situation," said political analyst Andre Pereira Cesar.

"If the president does not assume a wartime leadership stance against the virus he will be judged harshly -- by history and by voters," he warned.

Bolsonaro’s latest remark sparked fiery responses because Brazil faces what seems to be an uncontrollable outbreak of the COVID-19 disease and is still several weeks away from the peak of the pandemic, with a death toll that threatens to surpass even the most dire predictions.

There have been more than 91,000 officially confirmed cases so far but scientists warn the real figure could be 15 to 20 times higher.

With a death toll that has already topped 6,300, the giant South American country is facing as grim a scenario as Italy or the United States.

Governor of Rio de Janeiro state, Wilson Witzel, called the president's remarks "absolutely unacceptable."

With his own state on the verge of a public health meltdown, Witzel slammed the president for "being ironic about the deaths" rather than "being a leader at such a moment."

"Do your job," he said on Twitter Wednesday, the day when the pro-gun president was training at a target range, far from the woes of Brazil's 210 million citizens.

Joao Doria, governor of Sao Paulo state which is also on the frontlines of the battle against the coronavirus with more than 2,500 deaths already, replied furiously to Bolsonaro in the capital Brasilia.

"Get out of your Brasilia bubble," he retorted, urging Bolsonaro to visit hospitals "in this country which is crying for its dead and infected."

Unlike many other heads of state, the Brazilian leader has not been seen in any hospitals nor has he expressed much solidarity with victims of the disease, bereaved families or healthcare staff who have condemned the lack of ventilators or beds.

The head of the doctors' union in Sao Paulo, Eder Gatti, called on television for "a more serious attitude from the president of the republic."

Bolsonaro "shows very little sensitivity to the tragedies that the families of those directly affected by the pandemic are going through," said Lucio Renno, director of the Institute of Political Science at Brasilia University.

That type of reaction is "shocking for a large part of the population" and "reinforces the idea for a good part of the elites and for the Brazilian people that he is not fit to govern," Renno said.

Miriam Leitao, an op-ed writer at the daily O Globo, wrote on Thursday that with his "So what?" Bolsonaro had "renounced the presidency."

"Anyone who shows such contempt for his own people can no longer be president," she wrote.

In a “Trumpian” tactic he adopted since becoming president, Bolsonaro quickly went on the offensive in the face of criticism from the governors and mayors, whom the Supreme Court has granted the power to call the shots in the fight against the pandemic.

"Ask Joao Doria or (Bruno) Covas [the mayor of Sao Paulo] why people continue to die even when they have taken such restrictive measures," said the president.

"They are the ones who should have the answers, you can't pin that on me."

Last modified onSaturday, 02 May 2020 13:24
  • Countries: Latin America

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