Human Rights Watch says Brazilian Bolsonaro sabotages COVID-19 efforts

BRASILIA (Reuters) – Brazilian rightist president Jair Bolsonaro has attempted to sabotage efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19 in his country, and said on Wednesday that Brazilians undermine the rights of Human Watch (HRW) .

The rights group said in its annual World Report’s Brazil chapter that the Supreme Court, Congress and other institutions have stepped in to protect Brazilians and blocked some of Bolsanaro’s most damaging policies.

The group’s executive director predicted that Washington would join the EU in pressuring Bolsonaro’s government to protect the Amazon from deforestation under the incoming administration of US President-elect Joe Biden.

Bolsonaro wanted to remove the states’ right to prohibit people’s movements, as they sought to stop the world’s second deadliest coronovirus outbreak after the United States, but the Supreme Court ruled against it.

The apex court also intervened to get its government to withhold COVID-19 data from the public. It also overturned a presidential veto of the law requiring the use of masks in prison. In July, it ordered the administration to draft a plan to protect Brazil’s vulnerable indigenous people from the epidemic, while Congress passed a bill to provide emergency health care to indigenous communities.

Bolsonaro has consistently lowered the gravity of COVID-19, calling it “a little flu” and criticized measures for lockdown and social removal. HRW said that it has disseminated misleading information about the virus.

The president’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Bolsonaro has argued that the lockdown hurts the Brazilian economy and leaves many working.

HRW said Bolsonaro has also undermined women’s rights, attacked journalists and civil society groups, and stigmatized and taunted the independent Brazilian media.

“The Supreme Court and other institutions have helped protect Brazilians and block many, though not all, of Bolsonaro’s anti-rights policies. They need to be cautious, said Anna Livia Arida, Brazil Associate Director of HRW.

Weak environmental law enforcement has also allowed the illegal use of fire to re-land in the Amazon region. According to the government’s Space Research Institute (INPE), deforestation hit a 12-year high in 2020, when a forest seven times the size of London was cleared.

HRW Executive Director Kenneth Roth said, “Bolsonaro is one of those friendly autocats that (President Donald) Trump cohabited.”

“Until deforestation is reversed, we are not going to increase the pressure on Bolsonaro with any friends in the White House,” he said.

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