Brazil’s governors on Wednesday rebelled against Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro’s call for life to return to precoronavirus normalcy, saying that his proposal to reopen schools and businesses runs counter to recommendations from health experts and endangers the population.
State governors, many of whom have adopted strict measures to limit gatherings in their regions, defied the president’s instructions in a nationwide address on Tuesday evening that they lift the restrictions and limit isolation only to elderly people and those with longstanding health problems.
The governors were not the only defiant ones: Virus plans challenged by Bolsonaro were upheld by the Brazilian Supreme Court; the heads of both congressional houses criticized his televised speech; companies donated supplies to state anti-virus efforts; and even some of his staunch supporters joined his detractors.
Footage of a private videoconference on Wednesday between Bolsonaro and governors from Brazil’s southeast region showed Sao Paulo Governor Joao Doria threatening to sue the federal government if it attempted to interfere with his efforts to combat the virus.
“We are here, the four governors of the southeast region, in respect for Brazil and Brazilians, and in respect for dialogue and understanding,” said Doria, who supported Bolsonaro’s 2018 presidential bid. “You are the president and you have to set the example. You have to be the representative to command, guide and lead this country, not divide it.”
Bolsonaro responded by accusing Doria of riding his coattails to the governorship, then turning his back on the president.
“If you don’t get in the way, Brazil will take off and emerge from the crisis. Stop campaigning,” Bolsonaro said.
The president has said that a shutdown of activity would deeply wound the country’s already beleaguered economy and spark social unrest worse than the effects of addressing the virus with only limited isolation measures.
He told reporters in Brasilia that he has listened to US President Donald Trump, and found their perspectives to be rather similar.
“What needs to be done? Put the people to work. Preserve the elderly, preserve those who have health problems, but nothing more than that,” Bolsonaro said. “If we cower, opt for the easy discourse, everyone stays home, it will be chaos. No one will produce anything, there will be unemployment, refrigerators will go empty, no one will be able to pay bills.”
He has found some support among his base — #BolsonaroIsRight was trending atop Brazilian Twitter — but such backing has been largely drowned out in public by a week of nightly demonstrations from many respecting self-isolation, who lean from their windows to bang pots and pans in protest against the president.
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