With the world’s second highest number of coronavirus infections, and reporting over 68,000 COVID-19 related fatalities, the Brazilian government’s response and seemingly laissez-faire attitude to the pandemic, has been heavily criticized by local activists and the country’s neighbours, including Venezuela and Argentina.
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has lashed out at President Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil, accusing him of acting irresponsibly amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I would like to express my concern with the numbers from the United States, which passed 3 million cases, with Brazil’s figures, due to the irresponsibility and madness of Jair Bolsonaro,” Maduro said, in a broadcast on Venezuelan state television.
The Venezuelan leader recalled Tuesday’s incident in which Bolsonaro took off his mask in front of journalists while announcing that he had the coronavirus, which prompted a Brazilian Press Association lawsuit in Brazil’s Supreme Court for exposing media workers to the disease.
“I see that he is beside himself. He’s is out of control. He took off his mask after finishing reporting that he had coronavirus, and the journalists are suing him. How far can Bolsonaro go? What is Bolsonaro’s limit?” a seemingly flabbergasted Maduro asked.
Bolsonaro, 65, has actively criticized coronavirus-related lockdowns and other restrictions aimed at combating the virus’s spread, urging Brazilians to keep the economy going and suggesting that only citizens at risk and over the age of 60 should be made to stay at home. In March, as more and more countries began to introduce lockdowns, Bolsonaro boasted that no coronavirus could break him, and compared COVID-19 to a “little flu.”
Brazil currently has over 1.7 million COVID-19 cases, second only to the US. Over 68,000 Brazilians have died from virus-related complications over the past months, with the number of cases continuing to grow. The large number of fatalities has been blamed at least in part on an insufficiently developed healthcare system and systemic economic inequalities.
By comparison, Venezuela, despite the tough US sanctions regime and shortages of everything from food and fuel to medical supplies, has managed to keep both cases and deaths low, with just 8,010 confirmed cases and 75 deaths reported over four months into the pandemic. Venezuela was one of the first countries to close its borders and to introduce a national quarantine and issue a comprehensive COVID-19 emergency response plan, including house-to-house visits by doctors, a community-organized campaign for the delivery of food, and the mobilization of resources to add to the nation’s medical capacity.