Finally, there is the role of Bolsonaro himself. As COVID-19 spread, the president systematically downplayed the risks and blocked any centrally coordinated response. He also contradicted mayors and governors when they tried to impose their own containment, social distancing, or masking.
This subversive work caused complete confusion in the country, which Bolsonaro then used to justify his rejection of restrictions. The president also urged the country’s health ministers – four a year – to focus on unsubstantiated therapies like ivermectin and hydroxychloroquine as it allowed the health care system to collapse.
Social support in decline
It was the left in Congress who initiated the only significant measure to protect the poor: monthly emergency aid of R $ 600 (about $ 140) during the pandemic, as well as other stimulus measures such as credit lines for SMEs. These measures were approved as part of a “military budget” that circumvented constitutional budget deficit limits.
Bolsonaro then presented this emergency aid as his own grant to the people, thereby increasing his popularity.
However, this income support program ended in January, with the start of the new fiscal year, as the latest wave of COVID-19 intensified. In April, it was replaced by a much more modest subsidy of R $ 250 per month for a maximum of three months, a measure that is promised to be offset by even deeper administrative reforms and additional budget cuts.
Lack of federal support prevents states and municipalities from introducing local containment measures, which is a strong guarantee that the pandemic will worsen.
Necropolitics in action
The situation in Brazil is an excellent example of applied necropolis. According to this concept, formulated by Achille Mbembe, necropolis is the highest expression of social and political power through its ability to decide who can live and who must die. In this iteration, Covid-19 is presented as a natural fact affecting only the weak.
In fact, this is not true, but such a policy of resentment, conspiracy and disinformation is typical of the current cohort of authoritarian rulers in many countries who spread lies with the specific purpose of creating conflict, diverting attention and blocking any solution.
Bolsonaro said he was avoiding serious measures against the pandemic in order to protect the economy. So, there is never either one or the other. International experience shows that countries (such as South Korea or Vietnam that have fought the coronavirus vigorously) are seeing both fewer deaths and less contraction in economic activity. Those seeking to avoid lockdowns suffered more deaths and more economic downturns. taking a dive.