Brazil is facing a lethal trifecta: an interlocking politico-institutional, economic and sanitary crisis. A liquidity crisis and a currency crisis constantly feed on the political crisis, aggravated by the long running — and itself corrupted — Car Wash corruption investigation, writes Pepe Escobar, Brazilian author and journalist, columnist of the Hong Kong-based Asia Times.
On June 19, Brazil broke a grim record: one million Covid-19 registered cases — more than fellow BRICS member Russia and India combined.
That was the graphic result of supremely inefficient public health policies coupled with a hasty exit from partial lockdown — with President Bolsonaro relentlessly sabotaging its own Health Ministry and medical professionals, claiming quarantine would reduce Brazil to the status of a “poor African nation”.
When Bolsonaro, in April, sacked then popular Health Minister Henrique Mandetta, he said, “life is priceless, but economy and jobs must be back to normal”. Mandetta’s successor, Nelson Teich, would resign less than a month later.
Real Covid-19 mortality figures in Brazil may in fact be over 85,000, as of late June, and the real infection rate may be 7 times higher than official numbers. In comparison, neighbor Argentina, by the end of June, had roughly 52,000 infections and only 1,150 deaths.
Brazil is facing a lethal trifecta: an interlocking politico-institutional, economic and sanitary crisis. A liquidity crisis and a currency crisis constantly feed on the political crisis, aggravated by the long running — and itself corrupted — Car Wash corruption investigation.
Bolsonaro, in theory, keeps an electoral base of roughly 30%, even as in May no less than 19 million of Brazil’s 84.4 million-strong workforce was idle. Brazil used to be globally recognized in its efforts to fight hunger. Now the World Bank estimates that at least 7% of the population will be affected by hunger by the end of 2020.
Workers’ rights and social rights have been rendered more "flexible, which translates as jobs in constant peril and larger swathes of the population depending on the informal economy. Brasilia’s neoliberal logic is that the nation is going through a fiscal crisis and the market must prevail by all means necessary over social policies.
The hunger crisis already preceded Covid-19. Brasilia’s incompetence only accelerated it — as the central government is completely unprepared to deal with systemic food insecurity.
Compounding the misery, Bolsonaro’s Environment Minister, Ricardo Salles, suggested that Covid-19 provides the perfect cover for even more savage forms of deregulation. EU investors were not amused:
“[We] urge the government of Brazil to demonstrate clear commitment to eliminating deforestation and protecting the rights of indigenous peoples.”
And if all that was not already gloomy enough, the Senate voted to privatize Brazil’s waters — subject to Bolsonaro’s certain approval.
Brazil holds two of the largest aquifers on the planet — Guarani and Alter do Chao. The privatization project came up with the dodgy figure of the “water producing enterprise” — which defines the mode of exploitation of what is essentially a common good.
Once again, Covid-19 was the pretext for a majority bought and paid for in the Senate to advance a rip-off of natural resources — endorsed by mainstream media — that may even dwarf vast amounts of protected Brazilian rainforest being bought by foreign capital, which then employs legions of miners and loggers for the benefit of international mining, beef, lumber and soy conglomerates.