Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has "tried to sabotage efforts to slow the spread of Covid-19 in Brazil and pursued other policies that undermine human rights,” according to a Human Rights Watch report.
In its World Report 2021 published Wednesday, the NGO said Bolsonaro repeatedly downplayed the coronavirus by calling it “a little flu” and by spreading misleading information about the pandemic.
Bolsonaro “refused to take measures to protect himself and the people around him; disseminated misleading information; and tried to block states from imposing social distancing rules. His administration attempted to withhold Covid-19 data from the public. He fired his health minister for defending World Health Organization recommendations, and the replacement health minister quit in opposition to the president’s advocacy of an unproven drug to treat Covid-19,” the report said.
Anna Livia Arida, Brazil associate director at Human Rights Watch, recognized the role of other government institutions such as Brazil's Supreme Court and Congress to help “block many, although not all, of Bolsonaro’s anti-rights policies.”
“The Supreme Court ruled against the Bolsonaro administration’s attempts to strip states of the authority to restrict people’s movements to contain the spread of Covid-19, to effectively suspend the access to information law, and to withhold Covid-19 data from the public," the report said.
"Congress passed a bill forcing the government to provide emergency health care to Indigenous people, and the Supreme Court ordered the Bolsonaro administration to draft a plan to fight the spread of Covid-19 in Indigenous territories,” it continued.
Government response: According to CNN Brasil, the country’s Ministry of Women, Family and Human Rights issued a statement Wednesday arguing that the report "ignores measures taken by the government to protect human rights during the pandemic.”
Numerous projects aimed to help children, adolescents, women and the elderly were mentioned in the statement, saying those were “a form of government aid to the socioeconomic developments that occurred in the pandemic,” CNN Brasil reported.
CNN has reached out to Bolsonaro's office for comment.
Brazil has the third highest count of Covid-19 cases worldwide, following the US and India. As of Wednesday, Brazil has reported 8,256,536 Covid-19 cases and 205,964 virus-related deaths.