Al Jazeera

Al Jazeera 23 May 2020

Video of cabinet meeting puts Brazil's Bolsonaro under fire


Brazil's Supreme Court has released a tape which appears to show President Jair Bolsonaro threatening to fire senior police officers and a government minister to protect his family.
Bolsonaro is being investigated for allegedly interfering in the federal police because he wanted to obtain intelligence reports that would help his family.
Bolsonaro's sons are being investigated for alleged wrongdoing

Al Jazeera's Lucia Newman reports.

With some 7,000 cases and 200 deaths, Brazil has more coronavirus infections than any other country in Latin America. The country's health minister warns the healthcare system could be overwhelmed by the end of April.

Yet, President Jair Bolsonaro has been downplaying the pandemic. He has referred to the virus as a "little flu" and "hysteria" and even visited a busy market outside the country's capital, Brasília, in a bid to get people back to work.

Brazilian Congresswoman Tabata Amaral accused Bolsonaro of lying and using social media to spread fake news.

"By doing those things, and by telling people to go to their streets, and actually going himself to greet the crowds, which he did last weekend, he's putting lives in danger," Amaral said.

"I'm very ashamed by all of the things he is doing, especially in moments of crisis, we need a leader who tells people everything will be all right," she added.

In March, Bolsonaro visited the United States for a meeting with President Donald Trump. When he returned to Brazil, more than 20 members of his delegation tested positive for the virus. Bolsonaro says he tested negative for COVID-19, but speculation continues in Brazil that he may have the virus.

"He is not someone known for telling the truth, and he hasn't been, he hasn't shown his test ... But the bigger point is that he is being extremely irresponsible," Amaral said.

A movement is growing inside Brazil calling for Bolsonaro's impeachment, but Amaral stopped short of supporting it at this time.

"I do think he should be held accountable for everything he's doing - but after the crisis. I don't think my country can handle another crisis on top of coronavirus right now," Amaral said.

President Trump has employed rhetoric similar to the claims made by the Brazilian president. Like Bolsonaro, Trump has dismissed fears about the virus, saying it would "go away" and describing it as a political "hoax".

But Amaral says while Bolsonaro is a fan of Trump, the two leaders' response to the virus differs.

"President Trump is more pragmatic. When he saw all of the people who were dying in the US, when he saw all of what that meant to his popularity, to the economy, he changed his attitude, and Bolsonaro is not changing the attitude," Amaral said.

In this week's Special Interview, we discuss Jair Bolsonaro's defiance in the face of the coronavirus with Brazilian Congresswoman Tabata Amaral.
On The Listening Post this week: Brazil's President Bolsonaro and COVID-19 misinformation. Plus, how well has the WHO performed as a key information source during the pandemic?

Brazil's Bolsonaro: Turning COVID-19 denial into media spectacle

A president at odds with his advisers and scientists over COVID-19, who has said the virus is no worse than the flu, and whose supporters accuse the media of hyping up the story. Not Donald Trump, but Brazil's Jair Bolsonaro.

Even as deaths in Brazil surpass China, President Bolsonaro continues to downplay the pandemic. After firing his health minister, he went on to attend a "protest" demanding military intervention to lift the lockdown. He also has the support of two of Brazil's biggest media players, Record TV and SBT. Whether Bolsonaro is in denial, or just playing politics, they are standing firmly by his side.


Andrew Fishman - Managing editor, The Intercept Brasil

Gustavo Ribeiro - Founder, Brazilian Report

Bob Fernandes - Journalist and commentator

Leonardo Custodio, Postdoctoral researcher - Abo Akademi University

On our radar:

Richard Gizbert speaks to producer Meenakshi Ravi about a media storm in Pakistan, where a religious leader turned a televised coronavirus fundraiser into an attack on the broadcasters.

Who holds WHO accountable?

COVID-19 is the biggest news story most of us have ever seen. Of all the institutions responsible for getting information out, the World Health Organization (WHO) may be the most vital.

The WHO is a specialised agency of the United Nations borne out of the recognition that no single country can manage a global outbreak, and that an international health body is needed to rise above the politics of national interests.

In this pandemic, however, the WHO has been accused of falling short of its mandate and was unable to act independently in accessing and assessing the outbreak. The WHO was only granted access to Wuhan in mid-February. And not only did it fail to verify the early information on COVID-19 coming out of China, but it amplified it by repeating Chinese misinformation.

On January 14, the WHO tweeted that there was "no proof of human-to-human transmission" of the coronavirus. But at the time, media in Hong Kong and other countries, were already comparing the virus to SARS and saying it was most likely transmitting from people to people.

The Listening Post's producer Nic Muirhead reports on the WHO, and how one of the most important news sources in the world may be compromised.


Lawrence Gostin - Director, O'Neill Institute, Georgetown University

Osman Dar - Global Health Programme, Chatham House

Stephen Buranyi - Journalist, The Guardian

Rana Mitter - Director, China Centre, Oxford University
When Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro was asked this week to respond to the fact his country had hit a record number of COVID-19 deaths in 24 hours, his response took even some supporters by surprise. "So what?" he replied, unleashing a deluge of criticism.

Latin America's largest country faces a growing health emergency as it contends with the twin challenges of coronavirus and political turmoil.

More than 90,000 people in Brazil are confirmed to be infected with COVID-19, but health authorities estimate the actual number to be at least 10 times higher.

Though millions are now at risk, Bolsonaro has repeatedly downplayed the seriousness of the situation, referring to the pandemic as a "measly cold."

But as hospitals become overwhelmed with patients and mass graves proliferate, Bolsonaro is rapidly losing political clout. And the high-profile departures of his popular health and justice ministers in recent weeks have left him vulnerable to impeachment inquiries.

In the absence of federal leadership, local governors have attempted to enforce social distancing measures. But in poorer neighborhoods, this has been impossible.

In this episode we ask, does Brazil's Bolsonaro care about coronavirus?
"There's a whole fleet of them!": The US Pentagon declassifies 3 videos of "unidentified aerial phenomena"

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