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Issue #1916      May 25, 2020


In the middle of a pandemic, Brazilian President Jair Messias Bolsonaro met with businessmen during a session of the Supreme Federal Court (STF) to pressure the court to reopen the economy.

When asked about the death toll, the president replied, “So what?” highlighting his flagrant disregard for workers, and prioritising profit over lives.

According to data from the Brazilian Ministry of Health, the number of confirmed cases has reached 300,000 with more than 17,000 deaths. In the midst of the greatest public health crisis of our time, President Jair Messias Bolsonaro met with lobbyists from various sectors such as textiles, cement, energy, pharmaceuticals, machinery, and footwear in an unscheduled session of the Supreme Federal Court in an attempt to get the court to order workers to return to a normal working schedule.

According to reports, Bolsonaro has again criticised governors and mayors in the country for exaggerating the adoption of restrictive measures of social isolation.

When asked about the death toll, the president replied, “So what?” highlighting his flagrant disregard for workers, and prioritising profit over lives.

The position of the president directly affects the lives of 13 million Brazilians living in favelas,* who already suffer problems such as lack of sanitation and access to water. Additionally, Indigenous populations have become vulnerable. As a result of the presence of loggers and prospectors, the destruction of the forest poses a new threat: COVID-19.

It is important to point out that the state of Amazonas (where the Amazon forest is located) is one of the most affected, with 500 Indigenous people dying daily as a result of COVID-19. Overburdened hospitals, in addition to the lack of masks and respirators, shows what happens when profits speak louder than human lives.

We saw this with Milan when the Italian city launched the “Milano non si ferma” (Milan doesn’t stop) campaign: thousands of people died. What we learned from Italy, we can see happening in the US. We can only hope that the same will not occur with Brazil.

For most countries in the world, economic recovery is possible, but in Brazil, it isn’t. When it reaches the favelas, where brutal living conditions already exist, COVID-19 will turn them into an abattoir. Why? Because unlike the developed countries in the West, hospitals along with other medical necessities are non-existent. If approved by the Federal Supreme Court, these workers will have no choice whatsoever. Their lives will be lost to the machine of capitalism.


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