On Saturday, Brazilians took to the streets in another massive protest against President Jair Bolsonaro’s deadly negligence during the Covid 19 pandemic.
Thousands of protesters in over forty Brazilian cities took over city streets bearing signs and chants of “fora Bolsonaro genocida (out with the genocidal Bolsonaro)”.
The Brazilian Ministry of Health announced that the country surpassed 500,000 deaths from the coronavirus on June 19th. Over the week, the average death per day rose to over 2000, marking the greatest upward trend of any country this year.
The general average since the start of the pandemic has been 1,000 deaths per day, but since the start of 2021, the average has slowly climbed. The worst moment was in April which witnessed over 3,000 deaths per day. These numbers are both due to and compounded by the infamously slow and inconsistent distribution of vaccines around the country.
As of the writing of this article, 86 million doses of the vaccine have been administered, 62 million receiving the first dose and 24 million receiving the second dose. Together this represents only 29% of the total population. A deeper look into the numbers shows that parts of the country with majority white populations in Southern Brazil (Mato Grosso do Sul, Rio Grande, Parana) have received more vaccinations per capita, while majority Black and Indigenous states (Bahia, Amazons) are being vaccinated at a lower level per capita.
These numbers, indicating a strong racial bias by the federal government, are available only as a result of an effort by several media outlets to calculate Covid rates per state and city. This research partnership was started in January in response to the Bolsonaro government’s decision to restrict access to data on the Covid-19 pandemic.
Representatives of the media partnership made the following public statements:
“At this crucial moment, we left our competition aside for a common good: to provide society with the most accurate data possible about the pandemic. This information guides people and public policies. Without them, the country plunges into a blind flight. Journalism will fulfill its role”, says Alan Gripp, editorial director of O Globo.
Over 400 separate protests occurred in 386 cities across Brazil, including the 27 capitals. Globally, people demonstrated support with events in 52 cities, in countries including the United States, Canada, Germany, France, Portugal, Italy, Finland and Argentina.
The demonstrations represented an intersection of political movements including unions, student groups, feminist and anti-racist organizations. Organizers emphasized the use of masks and sanitizers during the events.
Activists noted to the press the precariousness of mass protests during the pandemic. Romolu Maia, a student organizer and member of the group MTST (Movement of Homeless Workers), said to the news outlet, Folha:
“It is out of necessity that we are going to the streets. Nobody wanted to go to the streets at a time of pandemic, nobody, but unfortunately it is necessary.”
He went on to explain how the the pandemic acutely affects poorer populations and the risk of protesting as a necessary action:
“The ‘stay at home’ is for those who have a home, and whoever does not have a home, stay where?” he asks. “On the street? Under the bridge? Who is not able to pay the rent? Eviction? Overcrowded buses, companies closing jobs.”
In all, the Brazilian protests were estimated to have drawn over 750,000 participants.
That evening President Bolsonarro took to Instagram and mocked the demonstrations with a post showing a small group of protesters in the rural town of Paranaguá. His caption read: “Protest against Bolsonaro closes the street and paralyzes downtown Paranaguá.”
Throughout the pandemic, Bolosonaro, who also contracted and recovered from Covid-19, has mocked the science community calling the virus “a little flu”, refusing life-saving vaccines from international labs and asserting that the vaccines could turn humans into crocodiles.
Despite the president’s malicious abandonment of the population, social groups have continually worked to help secure basic needs for the most vulnerable populations.
If you would like to help here is a list of organizations you can donate to:
Mães da Favela (Mothers of the Ghetto)
A program of the The Cufa initiative (Central Única das Favelas), serves
5,000 communities in the country. Their 2021 goal is to repeat the results of 2020, when 1.3 million basic food baskets were distributed.
Donations can be made through the website (https://www.maesdafavela.com.br/ ) .
Tem Gente com Fome, Da de Comer (If There are Hungry People, Feed Them),
Started by the Black Coalition for Rights, the campaign aims to distribute food, hygiene and cleaning products to 220,000 vulnerable families in all regions of the country. Contributions can be made through the website (https://www.temgentecomfome.com.br )
Amigos Do Bem (Friends of Goodness)
Operating in Northeast Brazil this organization hopes to collect donations to distribute 100,000 basic food baskets to serve more than 500 thousand people.
Donations can be made on the website (https://doar.amigosdobem.org/acaoemergencialpf )