Jair Bolsonaro ignored repeated warnings that his anti-scientific response to Covid-19 was leading Brazil down an “extremely dangerous path” and putting tens of thousands of lives at risk, the country’s former health minister claimed.
Donation Oral testimony before a Senate investigation. On the calamity of the coronavirus in Brazil on Tuesday, Luiz Henrique Mandetta, who headed the Ministry of Health at the beginning of the pandemic, said he believed that the conduct of the Brazilian president had helped generate an unnecessarily great tragedy.
When asked by a senator if Bolsonaro, whose sabotage of social distancing has been condemned globally, had understood that failing to heed the international scientific consensus on Covid containment measures could cause a “death on an enormous scale,” Mandetta replied. : “Yes sir”.
“I warned him consistently, even with projections,” added the 56-year-old doctor-turned-politician who is the first witness to the investigation.
Not long before being fired in April last year, Mandetta claimed that he had warned Bolsonaro that 180,000 Brazilians could die before the end of the year unless the federal government introduced restrictions. They were not, and by the end of the year 191,000 Brazilians had died.
“We were 11,000,” Mandetta said in the investigation, which Bolsonaro’s political enemies hope he will extinguish his chances of re-election next year and ensure justice for the families of the dead.
The Covid emergency in Brazil has gone from bad to worse in 2021, and the official death toll more than doubled to 408,000, the second highest figure after the United States. Before Mandetta’s testimony on Tuesday, the rapporteur for the investigation, Renan Calheiros, said that Brazil needed answers about who was to blame for the “grim situation” facing the largest country in South America.
The parliamentary inquiry was established last week amid growing public anger over Bolsonaro’s handling of one of the worst Covid outbreaks in the world, his refusal to impose closures, and his government’s inability to purchase enough vaccines.
In his inaugural session last week, Calheiros drew an indirect but unmistakable parallel between Bolsonaro and the “butcher of the Balkans,” Slobodan Milosevic, who ended up on trial in The Hague. “There are culprits … and they will be held responsible,” promised Calheiros.
“The country has the right to know who contributed to all these thousands of deaths and those people should be punished immediately and emblematically.”
Mandetta, who was fired after publicly challenging his boss over the pandemic, defended his own response to what he called Covid’s “global attack.” “We did not take a single step that was not based on science,” insisted Mandetta, stating that he had fought to secure medical supplies and convince Brazilians, including the president, of the need for physical distancing.
Bolsonaro, however, ignored that advice and heeded his aides and allies who were downplaying the coronavirus, promoting ineffective remedies like chloroquine, and pushing the idea that Brazil could achieve herd immunity without shutting down its economy. One of those allies, the right-wing Congressman Osmar Terra, claimed last April that the epidemic in Brazil was almost over.
Mandetta said: “I did everything I could have done to try to convince him not to take this extremely dangerous path. [of rejecting scientific advice]. But there were probably other people who told him that what the health minister said was wrong. “
The former minister produced a three page letter claimed to have handed over Bolsonaro in March 2020, which concluded: “We expressly recommend that the presidency reconsider the position it has adopted, in accordance with the guidelines of the Ministry of Health, since taking measures in the opposite direction could cause the collapse of the health care system. health and extremely serious consequences for the health of the population ”.
Mandetta said he suspected Bolsonaro was convinced that herd immunity could be achieved by allowing Covid to spread uncontrollably among the population “and only those who have to die.” [such as the elderly], he will die. “Humberto Costa, a leftist politician who is one of the 11 senators in the investigation, said:” If this is true, it represents an absolutely criminal act. “
Bolsonaro still has the backing of about a third of Brazilians, but seems unsettled by the Senate investigation, with staunch supporters staging protests in several major cities last Saturday.
The investigation even led one of the president’s sons, Flávio Bolsonaro, to embrace the concept of social distancing as he tried to argue that his hearings should be postponed because it was too dangerous for senators to meet to debate the federal government’s Covid response. Four days later, Flávio Bolsonaro praised thousands of Bolsonaro supporters for congregating on Copacabana beach in the yellow and green colors of his father’s far-right movement.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism