And when the maniac is the President?

Image_Elyeser Szturm

To the sound of pots clacking in urban centers, the hand of the Corona maniac inoculates the virus of inconsequence by selfie or greeting, while using the other hand to squeeze, once again, the Russian roulette trigger with his obtuse supporters

By Iury Tavares*

the figure of syringe maniac is no stranger to Brazilian news.

Four years ago, two homeless people were arrested, accused of being responsible for several needle attacks on Avenida Paulista.[1] and on the São Paulo subway[2]. Two years later, the traditional feast of São João de Campina Grande ended with more than sixty people pierced[3]. During last year's Carnival, Recife's street parties left nearly three hundred people stung. The attacks were framed as bodily injury or a crime of exposing the life of another at risk by transmitting a serious illness. In all cases, according to reports, the victims were tested and left public hospitals with a 28-day antiretroviral cocktail and under the determination to return for further follow-up.

If the risk of contamination from a needlestick injury is low - less than 1% -, the same cannot be said of the coronavirus, whose degree of contagion is, on average, up to three people per patient. In a context where most of those infected are asymptomatic, the risk of transmission is increased, resulting in multiple sources of infection and exponential growth of cases. That said, and armed with all the information about the tragic consequences of the pandemic, what would be the implications for anyone, under the risk of being contaminated, to expose themselves in a crowd and exchange greetings with 272 people[4]? What should the consequences be for a corona maniac?

And if the manic was the President of the Republic?

Without ignoring the legal importance of the discussion[5], the political conduct of Jair Bolsonaro (and family) always carried the mark of inconsequence, but in times of the Covid-19 pandemic, his disservice takes on fatal contours, as the ink in his pen has more weight than that of any other Brazilian – be it Bic ou Compactor. In France, Emmanuel Macron swallowed the new policy before the “state of war against an invisible enemy”[6]; centrist Angela Merkel called the coronavirus “the biggest challenge since World War II”; in the country of Benjamin Netanyahu, Bolsonaro's first-time partner, Israelis and Palestinians work together in a secret office against the pandemic[7]; even the US government recommended that the population stay at home for 15 days[8] and, at a regional level, mayors of large cities have determined compulsory confinement[9]. Probably everyone must be acting under excusable fear, surprise or violent emotion, isn't that right?

Meanwhile, Bolsonaro is playing at denying the danger like someone playing Russian roulette with five bullets in the barrel of his gun. In the same universe where he manages to do imaginary push-ups, Covid-19 is a “little flu” and he would not feel anything given his athlete history. Why, then, did the International Olympic Committee announce the postponement of the Olympic Games, in Tokyo, to 2021, an unprecedented measure in the history of the sporting event? The President's Request[10] for the population to return to normality included the reopening of schools, since the risk group would be restricted to people over 60 years of age. The guideline goes against the action of 157 countries and the finding of the World Health Organization that classrooms are spaces that facilitate contamination. The asymptomatic student becomes a focus of contagion and helps to transport the virus to other family groups. Bolsonaro ignores that Brazil has thirty million elderly people, of which 87% live with someone[11], not to mention that other risk factors are present in different age groups, such as diabetes, asthma, hypertension and smoking. God may even train Brazilian scientists, as he asks, but they will be able to do little in the face of budget cuts in science and technology.

Disdain for knowledge had already been evidenced by criticism of INPE's deforestation figures, but Jair Bolsonaro once again embraced obscurantism by discrediting health professionals' guidelines. Aside from the institutional crisis that he seeks to provoke in his daily checklist, the Minister of Health's own guidance was already against crowds when Bolsonaro, on his way to the United States, asked people to participate in the demonstrations. After the presidential entourage expelled 22 infected on Brazilian soil, Bolsonaro broke through the recommended isolation to fall into the waters of the crowd, on March 15, in the protest that was neither against nor in favor, but on the contrary.

The economic elite, through public figures[12] or institutionally, also makes its contribution towards health chaos. Junior Durski, from the Madero network, defended with impunity the reopening of shops at the cost of “five thousand people or seven thousand people who will die”; owner of the Giraffas network, Alexandre Guerra, wants you to know that dying may not be the biggest of your problems, because “you already realized that, instead of being afraid of catching this virus, you should also be afraid of losing your job?”; businessman and presenter Roberto Justus cited unsourced statistics to justify maintaining the activity: “Did you know that fifteen people, including adults and children, die every day from problems related to malnutrition in Brazil? And I didn’t see Brazil stop because of that.” – perhaps because the priority has always been working capital and not hunger. On another front, banks promised to postpone payments for sixty days, but actually offered innocent account holders new financing with higher interest rates. While you cry, banks sell handkerchiefs, to paraphrase a well-known publicist diagnosed with Covid-19. Fiesp's contribution, in a meeting with the President of the Republic, boiled down to three concerns disconnected from reality: rebalancing the profit of the pharmaceutical sector, the danger that free services and items could cause in society and, finally, the request of a quick fix of FAB planes to seek private acquisitions in China[13]. Paulo Guedes was not present, but he could well remember that there is no host that survives so much parasite.

But it is against the poor that the most perverse face of the crisis is revealed. In Brazilian favelas live 13 million people, squeezed into a few square meters, with no possibility of isolation or sanitation. Washing your hands and leaving the windows open are not trivial when there is no water for days and the sewage is running in the open. If access to health is precarious under normal conditions, in times of crisis, death is a remedy. Almost half of the workers are self-employed or self-employed and will certainly see their income drop due to the inevitability of confinement. The State must not remain impassive looking into the abyss for too long. The best international practices point to robust intervention in helping small and medium-sized companies, but above all the most fragile groups in society. However, the Brazilian government is still groping in the dark. The United States and European countries increased social spending[14] and plan stimulus packages in the trillions[15], pushing aside any budgetary orthodoxy blown by neoliberal winds. Meanwhile, Guedes and his team extended an offer of R$XNUMX to workers and, in a provisional measure revoked after intense criticism, wanted to allow the employer to suspend the employment contract for up to four months without maintaining wages.

As if every problem were not enough, federal deputy Eduardo Bolsonaro exhibited the mark of inconsequence by attributing the blame for the pandemic to China, Brazil's largest trading partner. The declaration generated a completely unnecessary diplomatic strain. Considering exports and imports between the countries, the sum reaches US$ 100 billion/year, with a surplus for the Brazilian side of US$ 30 billion.

And who leads Brazil through this storm is the “great helmsman” Bolsonaro, more concerned with economic activity than with the projection of 478 deaths in the country from Covid-19, made by the University of Oxford[16]. The president has already made it clear that if the economy sinks, his government ends. Priority is given. That is why the government launched an institutional campaign with the motto “Brazil cannot stop”. The piece brings, for the most part, black men and women in its images. They are the ones who must, in their peripheries, accept the risk of exposure to the virus because nothing happens when they dive into the sewer[17].

Faced with the onslaught of syringe maniac, the victims were at least aware of the seriousness of the act and the precautions that must follow an unfounded and disturbing aggression. To the sound of the crackling of pots that tinkle in urban centers, the hand of the corona maniac inoculates the virus of inconsequence by selfie or handshake, while using the other hand to pull, once again, the Russian roulette trigger with its obtuse supporters.

Only the gun is facing you.

*Iury Tavares Master in Political Science and International Relations from Universidade Nova de Lisboa











[11] Data from the 2010 IBGE Census.







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