2/2 © Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Bolsonaro of Brazil watches as he adjusts his protective mask during a ceremony in Brasilia 2/2
By Anthony Boadle BRASILIA (Reuters) – Brazil’s right-wing President Jair Bolsonaro has attempted to sabotage efforts to curb the spread of COVID-19 in his country and has pursued policies that undermine the rights of Brazilians, Human Rights Watch said. (HRW) on Wednesday. . The Supreme Court, Congress and other institutions have mobilized to protect Brazilians and have blocked some of Bolsonaro’s most damaging policies, the human rights group said in the chapter on Brazil of its annual world report. The group’s executive director predicted that Washington will join the European Union in pressuring the Bolsonaro government to protect the Amazon (NASDAQ 🙂 from deforestation under the incoming administration of U.S. President-elect Joe Biden. Bolsonaro wanted to remove the authority of states to restrict people’s movements as they sought to contain the world’s second-deadliest coronavirus outbreak after the United States, but the Supreme Court ruled against him. The high court also stepped in to prevent his government from withholding COVID-19 data from the public. He also overturned a presidential veto of legislation that required the use of masks in prison. In July, he ordered the administration to draft a plan to protect Brazil’s vulnerable indigenous peoples from the pandemic, while Congress passed a bill that required him to provide emergency medical care to indigenous communities. Bolsonaro has consistently downplayed the severity of COVID-19, calling it “a little flu” and criticizing blockades and social distancing measures. HRW said it has spread misleading information about the virus. The president’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Bolsonaro has argued that the lockdowns damage Brazil’s economy and leave many without work. HRW said Bolsonaro has also undermined women’s rights, lashed out at journalists and civil society groups, and stigmatized and intimidated independent Brazilian media. “The Supreme Court and other institutions have helped protect Brazilians and block many, but not all, of Bolsonaro’s anti-rights policies. They must remain vigilant,” said Anna Livia Arida, HRW’s associate director in Brazil. Weakened environmental law enforcement has also allowed the illegal use of fires to clear land to skyrocket again in the Amazon region. Deforestation reached a 12-year high in 2020, when an area of forest seven times the size of London was crossed out, according to the government’s institute for space research (INPE). “Bolsonaro is one of those friendly autocrats that (President Donald) Trump took in,” said HRW CEO Kenneth Roth. “Until deforestation is reversed, we will see increasing pressure on Bolsonaro without any friends in the White House,” he said.