April 28ththWhen asked about the fact that Brazil had 474 coronavirus deaths and a total of 5,017 deaths a day, President Bolsonaro said, “So what? I’m so sorry. What should I do? I am a messiah, but I do not work miracles. “The President urged journalists to question Health Minister Nelson Teich on the matter. This quote sparked a discussion on how to fight the pandemic in Brazil, rather than adopting policies that would reduce the number of infections , Bolsonaro claimed that prioritizing rigid measures of social isolation would lead to unemployment, economic recession, hunger and misery. Based on this scenario, the main aim of this article is to review the policies developed by the Bolsonaro government during the pandemic with duality in mind to analyze health versus an economy founded by the Brazilian government.
The coronavirus scenario and Brazil before the pandemic
The first case of COVID-19 in Brazil was reported on February 26ththin the city of São Paulo, mobilize the country to cope with the effects of the pandemic. Ten months after the public health crisis began, Brazil recorded 178,995 deaths and around 6.7 million people infected. In this scenario, the conflicting discourses between defending economic reopening and adopting a policy of social distancing emerged in Brazil. In terms of health, the results of the failed policies of social isolation from the Imperial College of London: In May, the Brazilian states of São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Ceará, and Amazonas were responsible for 81% of the country’s deaths, and state governments stopped acting by declaring a state of emergency, voluntary quarantine, transportation, and school closings ( Mella, Hoeltgebaum, Mishra et al., 2020).
The result of the lack of a centralized public policy to combat the pandemic is related to President Jair Bolsonaro’s personal refusal to treat the crisis as a pressing and central issue on the political agenda. The World Health Organization (WHO) is one of the president’s frequent targets as he accused WHO of breaking up countries by promoting action against the coronavirus.
The main concern of the president was the country’s economic recovery. His statements often deny the need to isolate the population and advocate measures that will help open trade to multiple businesses. He even made a surprise visit with entrepreneurs protesting in front of the Federal Court of Justice (STF) building for the reopening of the economy. In this case, the delegation went to Justice Headquarters and tried to put pressure on the judges. She claimed the isolation would lead companies to go bust.
With that in mind, it is clear that Bolsonaro is voting and defending the discourse that the virus will worsen the economy and opposes almost any research and speech that suggests otherwise. Studies argue that, despite the inevitable economic deficits caused by the emphasis on isolation policies, these measures to maintain society can be much more cost-effective because maintaining life precedes the functioning of the productive system. However, there is a solution to this paradox, which is the actions of the state itself. The main task of the state institution is to guarantee the citizens basic rights such as social protection. In crises such as the COVID-19 pandemic, the state recommends promoting social policies that guarantee the survival of its citizens, respect social isolation and consequently flatten the infection curve through disease.
In the Brazilian case, Congress, with the support of the opposition parties, proposed the creation of “emergency aid” to fulfill the function of the state to guarantee society’s survival, and offered a resource of R $ 600 (US $ 120) those who need it most for at least three months (it can reach a value of up to R $ 1,200 or US $ 240 for unemployed mothers) (CAIXA, s / d). It is worth noting that the government made an initial proposal, which was to pay R $ 200 (about US $ 50).
Given that the nominal minimum wage the worker receives to ensure his or her survival is constitutionally R $ 1,045 (US $ 209), the R $ 600 granted by the current government to combat the pandemic is insufficient. According to the Department of Statistics and Economic Studies (DIIESE), the minimum wage necessary for Brazilians to survive should (ideally) be R $ 4,694 (US $ 938), which is roughly four times the constitution.
The devaluation of Brazilian labor and the discourse based on the superposition of economic preservation over health conditions are not new and have their origins in the process of national education. To discuss the topic, the next topic looks at constructing the perspective of slavery and elitism pervading Brazilian society and its implications in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Analysis of Brazilian social thinking and the COVID crisis
Our central argument is that the current political and social thinking of the Brazilian President can be understood as the continuity of a process that began with the formation of Brazil as a post-colonial state. Formal independence was followed by no thought of what the last 300 years of rule and marginalization of several groups such as the enslaved and indigenous people meant. Clear evidence of this is that the country continued formal slavery for 66 years and was one of the last countries to abolish the practice. And even when slavery was abolished, the same process of amnesia occurred. The country has never meaningfully engaged in critical thought about what this period meant and what consequences this had for our society.
The arrival of the Portuguese royal family to Brazil at the beginning of the 19th centuryth The 19th century allowed the imperial model to be replicated on the territory that gained independence a few years later. The idea of a period of government and the concentration of decision-making power in the hands of an individual presupposes what political science calls the “absolutist and patrimonial state”. According to the Brazilian anthropologist Sergio Buarque de Holanda, the patrimonial state creates solid structures and patterns of behavior that consolidate a broad process of taking over the productive structures of the state by family elites (Holanda, 1995). In this political scenario, there is confusion as to the distinction between the public and private spheres, what belongs to the rulers and what rightly belongs to the citizens (Fausto, 2015). In the COVID case, the president’s narrative applauds this idea of appropriating the public for the benefit of the private sector, as federal executive power is only concerned about the private companies that could go bankrupt rather than strengthening the public health system to avoid death. Suffering and chaos.
Since then, Brazilian politics has been a pact between the elites to the Status quo on the distribution of wealth and the benefits of development. Although the country’s history has had moments when workers were materially valued, advances have not really changed the political structures or the way the country’s wealth is generated and distributed. The achievements of the working class are therefore short-lived and easy to overcome.
Bolsonaro was elected with a discourse about resuming traditional Brazilian politics and values where the elites would dominate policy formulation. The concept of necropolitics is particularly useful in this sense, especially in the light of Brazilian political and economic history, as we recognize that the call for a “return to normal” and the talk of the contradiction between health and economic privileges and protecting the rich in killing the marginalized and subaltern population groups.
If you look at the statistics of COVID-19 in Brazil, you can see that social class seems to be more decisive for patient survival (Vespa 2020). This social risk factor is also confirmed worldwide, according to the latest full study published in the journal nature.
To understand the class dimension as an aggravating factor in the coronavirus, we need to understand Bolsonaro’s government policy and classify it as necropolitical. Achille Mbembe develops this concept in order to understand the exercise of the sovereignty of the modern state by deciding who should live or die.
The author argues that the concept of sovereignty produces norms that have been established by free and equal men who are subjects capable of argument. Reason and its exercise correspond to the exercise of freedom. Thus, the subject has total control and power of its own meaning, and hence sovereignty is defined as a double process of self-institution and self-restraint. The author does not deal with the use of sovereignty in the struggle for autonomy and freedom, but with the instrumentalization of human existence and the systematic destruction of bodies and population groups (Mbembe, 2003).
Although necropolitics has been linked by several analysts to the direct use of violence to eradicate the undesirable, this concept also works by task. The killing of these people is therefore a function of direct action by the state (for example through invasions in marginalized communities) or the complete abandonment of a person in need of care and protection. This is where the “return to normal” policy and the dichotomy between health and economy come into play, and we can observe the dimension of the class struggle in the fight against the pandemic. Arguing that Brazil should return to normal, the president is not referring to a pre-COVID daily life, but rather a situation where the elite can keep their businesses – while working from home – while the lower classes roads to and from work must be confronted with overcrowded buses, trains and vehicles. This narrative, then, is the clearest example of abandonment: it means that the government will not take any measures that actively protect the public and only those who can afford to pay for prevention (work from home, pay for private hospitals or private health insurance companies). will be able to receive proper care or treatment in case of COVID contraction. In this sense, choosing to advocate a return to normal means giving up on lower-income subjects of Brazilian society.
The engagement in necropolitics is therefore seen either when an agent of the state (e.g. a police officer) effectively kills a marginalized / undesired other (black or indigenous). Quilombola Communities, etc.) or if the state does not provide these people with enough funds to protect themselves from COVID in the case analyzed here. This can easily be seen in the case where Bolsonaro vetoed 22 excerpts from a bill that provided measures for vulnerable communities. By not allowing public funds to be used to fight COVID in indigenous communities, the Brazilian government is advocating possible genocide of these people.
Furthermore, returning to normal or evaluating the economy is not synonymous with promoting growth and the distribution of wealth. Instead, it means abandoning the marginalized Brazilian population as their job is to create wealth for the dominant classes. The latter, in turn, are treated with full support from their private health plans or even through the possibility of social isolation. Reaffirming that if the isolation continues for a few months, the country will go bankrupt, Bolsonaro expresses concern, not about the workers or the traditionally marginalized population, but about the entrepreneurs whose businesses are deteriorating. It is worth noting that the President spent many weeks sending expressions of sympathy or solidarity to the relatives of those who died of COVID-19.
The opposition to approving the emergency aid or the proposal to pay $ 50 for each worker underscores this and confirms that the main concern is to avoid the collapse of the corporate elite, not the death of people. As we pointed out earlier, Bolsonaro decides to kill the marginalized people during the pandemic as he chooses to give up the above working classes and advocates that these people risk themselves again to gain prosperity for the elites create.
Since February 26ththBrazil became the epicenter of the pandemic in the world. In the midst of this social chaos, a discourse about returning to normal and upgrading the economy to the detriment of health is emerging, led by the highest authority in the country. This discourse sums up the social and political formation of Brazil as it exposes the contradictions of an essentially patrimonial and unequal country and shows that the presidency of the republic is again choosing to abandon the marginalized population and seeing more problems with the death of companies than of people. Contempt for public health can also be demonstrated by the fact that the country has not had a health minister for more than 120 days.
Bolsonaro does not have to actively participate in the deaths of marginalized people (although there are guidelines for actively producing deaths), but can simply sit back and watch the virus consume and implement the plan to eliminate these people. With this in mind, we bring the concept of the necropolitics of abandonment. It is a very sophisticated strategy for eliminating the marginalized and the unwanted other, as it can easily be denied. Indeed, this was Bolsonaro’s strategy as the president systematically blamed the state governors for the dramatic situation of COVID-19 in Brazil. It is also possible to see this strategy in terms of the (lack of) development of a meaningful nationwide vaccination schedule.
Understanding this idea of the necropolitics of the task might be essential to undermining measures like the COVID-19 crisis, but also to understanding how state and corporate elites have constructed a narrative of homemade people for the poor as they state Encouragement interventions took advantage of other inequalities and suffering.
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