Renewed attacks on China by a member of Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro’s inner circle soured diplomatic relations again on Monday as Minister of Education Abraham Weintraub accused Chinese medical equipment makers of profiteering from the coronavirus pandemic.
Weintraub suggested in a Twitter post, which he later deleted on Sunday, that the disease would help China “dominate the world.”
He referenced a cartoon character with a speech impediment to mock Chinese accents.
The Chinese embassy in Brazil, which had traded barbs last month with Bolsonaro’s son for comparing China’s handling of the disease to the former Soviet Union’s Chernobyl nuclear disaster, denounced the minister in a statement on Monday.
“These completely absurd and despicable declarations, with their racist character and unspeakable objectives, have caused negative influences in the healthy development of bilateral relations,” the embassy tweeted early on Monday.
The Brazilian Ministry of Education declined comment on the matter, and Weintraub did not respond to a request for comment.
In a radio interview, the minister said he was not racist. He also redoubled his attacks on China for its handling of the pandemic, accusing Chinese manufacturers of profiteering.
Weintraub said he would only apologize in exchange for a bargain on mechanical ventilators for university hospitals.
“Have them deliver 1,000 ventilators to my hospitals and I’ll go down to the embassy and say: ‘I’m an idiot,’” he told Radio Bandeirantes on Monday morning.
The COVID-19 pandemic has put renewed pressure on Brazil’s relationship with China, its largest trading partner and the world’s main producer of medical supplies, underscoring deep fault lines in Bolsonaro’s government.
Last week, Brazilian Minister of Health Luiz Henrique Mandetta said that China had ditched some Brazilian equipment orders when the US government sent more than 20 cargo planes to the country to buy the same products.
Meanwhile, Mandetta said he would stay put in his job for now, despite coming under fire from Bolsonaro for his handling of the COVID-19 crisis.
“I’m not bothered by the criticisms,” he told reporters on Monday evening outside the Ministry of Health in Brasilia. “But I’m bothered when the criticism is intended to make the work environment more difficult.”
Earlier on Monday, O Globo newspaper reported that Bolsonaro had decided to fire him, and would publish his decision in the official gazette by the end of the day.
While Mandetta has encouraged Brazilians to adopt the WHO’s guidance on social distancing and self-quarantining, Bolsonaro has said such a response would destroy the economy and do more harm to the population than the virus itself.
“A doctor doesn’t abandon the patient, and I won’t abandon tje country right now,” Mandetta said.
Additional reporting by Bloomberg
‘OBVIOUS DIFFERENCE’: The Wuhan Institute of Virology has been researching bat coronaviruses to trace the SARS pathogen, which is 80 percent similar to SARS-CoV-2 The Chinese virology institute in the city where COVID-19 first emerged has three live strains of bat coronavirus on-site, but none match the new contagion wreaking havoc around the world, its director has said. Scientists think COVID-19 — which first emerged in Wuhan and has killed more than 340,000 people worldwide — originated in bats and could have been transmitted to people via another mammal. However, the director of the Wuhan Institute of Virology told state broadcaster China Global Television Network that claims made by US President Donald Trump and others that the novel coronavirus could have escaped from the facility were
SPACE RACE: The China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp mission aims to land a robotic rover and put a probe into orbit around the planet China is targeting a July launch for its ambitious Mars mission, which includes landing a remote-controlled robot on the surface of the Red Planet, the company in charge of the project has said. Beijing has invested billions of dollars in its space program in an effort to catch up with its rival, the US, and affirm its status as a major world power. The Mars mission is among a number of new space projects China is pursuing, including putting Chinese astronauts on the moon and having a space station by 2022. Beijing had been planning the Mars mission for some time this year,
India has moved additional troops along its northern border as it prepares for an extended conflict with China, after several rounds of talks failed to ease tensions between the nuclear-armed rivals. China has already placed about 5,000 soldiers and armored vehicles within its side of the disputed border in the Ladakh region, an Indian government official said, asking not to be identified, citing rules. India is adding a similar number of troops as well as artillery guns along the border to fend off the continuing incursions by the Chinese army, the official said. The standoff began on May 5, when troops clashed
China is poised to enshrine individuals’ rights to privacy and personal data for the first time, a symbolic first step as more of the country of 1.4 billion people becomes digitized — and more vulnerable to leaks and hacks. The legislation is part of China’s first civil code, a sweeping package of laws that is being deliberated during the annual meeting of China’s National People’s Congress, which began on Friday after a delay of more than two months due to the COVID-19 pandemic. According to a recent draft, an individual has a right to privacy and to have their personal information protected. Data