[WSMDiscuss] Bolsonaro fires popular health minister after dispute over coronavirus response (Dom Phillips, in The Guardian)

Jai Sen jai.sen at cacim.net
Fri Apr 17 14:02:27 CEST 2020

Thursday, April 16, 2020

Viruses in movement…, Brazil in movement…, Power in movement…

[A further report, on what appears to be an apparent reversal of recent earlier reports (‘Brazilian President Bolsonaro Is Out Of Power, Replaced By General Netto’, by Emir Sader, Brazil Wire <http://www.brasilwire.com/sader-bolsonaro-has-been-neutralized-but-military-eyes-2022/>, at https://popularresistance.org/bolsonaro-out-of-power-replaced-by-general/) <https://popularresistance.org/bolsonaro-out-of-power-replaced-by-general/)> (and also at https://www.irishtimes.com/news/world/bolsonaro-s-rupture-with-health-minister-emblematic-of-diminishing-stature-1.4223364 <https://www.irishtimes.com/news/world/bolsonaro-s-rupture-with-health-minister-emblematic-of-diminishing-stature-1.4223364>)  But what may also be ‘developing news’… :

Bolsonaro fires popular health minister after dispute over coronavirus response

Luiz Henrique Mandetta defended physical distancing

Far-right president has downplayed impact of coronavirus

Dom Phillips, in The Guardian

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/apr/16/bolsonaro-brazil-president-luiz-mandetta-health-minister?CMP=Share_iOSApp_Other <https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/apr/16/bolsonaro-brazil-president-luiz-mandetta-health-minister?CMP=Share_iOSApp_Other>

Jair Bolsonaro with Luiz Mandetta earlier in March. Photograph: Andre Coelho/Getty Images

Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro has sparked protests and anger by sacking his popular health minister, Luiz Henrique Mandetta, after the two clashed <https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/mar/29/bolsonaro-warns-health-minister-covid-19> over Bolsonaro’s highly controversial response to the coronavirus pandemic.
“I have just received notice of my dismissal from President Jair Bolsonaro,” Mandetta tweeted <https://twitter.com/lhmandetta/status/1250865863755997189> on Thursday. “I would like to say thank you for the opportunity that was given to me, to manage our health service … and to plan our fight against the coronavirus epidemic, this great challenge that our health system is about to face.”

Speaking shortly after Mandetta’s exit was announced, Bolsonaro claimed the separation had been “a consensual divorce” – but signaled dissatisfaction with his former minister’s position on the economic impact of coronavirus.

“I know … life is priceless. But the economy and jobs must return to normal,” Bolsonaro said, as he introduced his new health minister, Nelson Teich, an oncologist who was CEO of a group of private clinics and is now a partner in a medical service consulting outfit.

Mandetta’s sacking has been anticipated for weeks, as Bolsonaro repeatedly downplayed coronavirus and urged the relaxation of social distancing measures while Mandetta defended <https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/apr/13/brazil-bolsonaro-coronavirus-covid-19-social-distancing> such policies.

But the move to force out Brazil’s most senior health official came just weeks before the virus is expected to reach its peak in the country. Confirmed cases have soared to more than 30,425 and 1,924 Brazilians have died.

When news of the sacking broke, shouts of “Bolsonaro murder!” were heard in central Rio de Janeiro and pan-bashing protests erupted in cities across the country.

“It absurd to change the health minister in the middle of a pandemic,” said one Rio de Janeiro intensive care doctor, speaking anonymously for fear of repercussions.

“It was a terrible decision by the president, a president imprisoned in empirical ideas without any scientific or clinical basis, who is going against everything that is happening in the world.”

Bolsonaro’s public call for Brazil to get back to work and his efforts to undermine regional governments’ shutdowns <https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/mar/27/jair-bolsonaro-coronavirus-brazil-governors-appalled> has appalled critics and sparked a political rebellion by the governors of nearly all of Brazil’s 27 states.

In contrast, during calm daily briefings Mandetta advised Brazilians to follow state governments’ advice on isolation.

“Don’t think that we are going to escape a sharp rise in cases of this illness,” he said in his final briefing <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xqE7gAqFpjU&feature=youtu.be> on Thursday. “The health system still isn’t read [to deal with] a rapid increase [in cases].”

Writing ahead of Bolsonaro’s decision, the political commentator Leandro Colon said Mandetta’s sacking might be good news “for those rooting for Jair Bolsonaro’s quick downfall”.

Such a move would further isolate the rightwing populist and could provoke “a political reaction of major proportions”, Colon wrote <https://www1.folha.uol.com.br/colunas/leandrocolon/2020/04/se-mandetta-cair.shtml> in the Folha de São Paulo newspaper.

But Colon warned that Mandetta’s removal would also be bad news for the health of Brazil’s 209 million citizens.

Recent modelling <https://g1.globo.com/bemestar/coronavirus/noticia/2020/03/27/sem-isolamento-e-acoes-contra-a-covid-19-brasil-pode-ter-ate-1-milhao-de-mortes-na-pandemia-diz-estudo.ghtml> by researchers from Imperial College London suggested Brazil could have more than 1.1 million Covid-19 deaths if no action were taken to control the pandemic; 529,000 if only elderly people were forced to isolate; and 44,200 if drastic measures were implemented.

Speaking after Mandetta’s firing, Bolsonaro painted himself as a protector of the poor.

“We cannot harm the neediest – they have no way of staying at home for very long without going out to seek their sustenance,” he said.

In his farewell press conference, Mandetta urged his former staff to mount an “unyielding defense of life and science” – a clear swipe at his former boss.

“Don’t be afraid,” he said. “Science is light … and it is through science that we will find a way out of this.”

His successor, Teich, said Brazil needed a full testing programme to better understand the new coronavirus and promised no “abrupt decision” on social distancing.

But he also made it clear Brazil would slowly start reopening. “What we are really doing here today is working for society to return to normal as quickly as possible,” he said.


Jai Sen

Independent researcher, editor; Senior Fellow at the School of International Development and Globalisation Studies at the University of Ottawa

jai.sen at cacim.net <mailto:jai.sen at cacim.net>
Now based in New Delhi, India (+91-98189 11325) and in Ottawa, Canada, on unceded and unsurrendered Anishinaabe territory (+1-613-282 2900) 

CURRENT / RECENT publications :

Jai Sen, ed, 2018a – The Movements of Movements, Part 2 : Rethinking Our Dance. Ebook and hard copy available at PM Press <http://www.pmpress.org/>
Jai Sen, ed, 2018b – The Movements of Movements, Part 1 : What Makes Us Move ? (Indian edition). New Delhi : AuthorsUpfront, in collaboration with OpenWord and PM Press.  Hard copy available at MOM1AmazonIN <https://www.amazon.in/dp/9387280101/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1522884070&sr=8-2&keywords=movements+of+movements+jai+sen>, MOM1Flipkart <https://www.flipkart.com/the-movements-of-movements/p/itmf3zg7h79ecpgj?pid=9789387280106&lid=LSTBOK9789387280106NBA1CH&marketplace=FLIPKART&srno=s_1_1&otracker=search&fm=SEARCH&iid=ff35b702-e6a8-4423-b014-16c84f6f0092.9789387280106.SEARCH&ppt=Search%20Page>, and MOM1AUpFront <http://www.authorsupfront.com/movements.htm>
Jai Sen, ed, 2017 – The Movements of Movements, Part 1 : What Makes Us Move ?.  New Delhi : OpenWord and Oakland, CA : PM Press.  Ebook and hard copy available at PM Press <http://www.pmpress.org/>
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