Friday April 3rd, 2020 6:46AM

Virus has Brazil's Bolsonaro facing governor ‘insurrection’

By The Associated Press
Related Articles
  Contact Editor

SAO PAULO (AP) — Brazil's governors on Wednesday rebelled against President Jair Bolsonaro’s call for life to return to pre-coronavirus normalcy, saying his proposal to reopen schools and businesses runs counter to recommendations from health experts and endangers Latin America’s largest population.

State governors, many of whom have adopted strict measures to limit gatherings in their regions, defied the president's instructions in a nationwide address Tuesday evening that they lift the restrictions and limit isolation only to the elderly and those with longstanding health problems.

The governors weren't the only defiant ones. Virus plans challenged by Bolsonaro were upheld by the Supreme Court. The heads of both congressional houses criticized his televised speech. Companies donated supplies to state anti-virus efforts. And even some of his staunch supporters joined his detractors.

In a videoconference Wednesday between Bolsonaro and governors from Brazil's southeast region, Sao Paulo Gov. João Doria threatened to sue the federal government if it attempted to interfere with his efforts to combat the virus, according to video of their private meeting reviewed by The Associated Press.

“We are here, the four governors of the southeast region, in respect for Brazil and Brazilians and in respect for dialogue and understanding,” said Doria, who supported Bolsonaro's 2018 presidential bid. “But you are the president and you have to set the example. You have to be the representative to command, guide and lead this country, not divide it."

Bolsonaro responded by accusing Doria of riding his coattails to the governorship, then turning his back.

“If you don't get in the way, Brazil will take off and emerge from the crisis. Stop campaigning,” the far-right president said.

Bolsonaro argues that a shutdown of activity would deeply wound the country's already beleaguered economy and spark social unrest worse than the impact of addressing the virus with only limited isolation measures. He told reporters in the capital, Brasilia, that he has listened to his U.S. counterpart, Donald Trump, and found their perspectives to be rather similar.

“What needs to be done? Put the people to work. Preserve the elderly, preserve those who have health problems. But nothing more than that,” Bolsonaro said. “If we cower, opt for the easy discourse, everyone stays home, it will be chaos. No one will produce anything, there will be unemployment, refrigerators will go empty, no one will be able to pay bills.”

He has found some support among his base — #BolsonaroIsRight was trending atop Brazilian Twitter — but such backing has been largely drowned out in public by a week of nightly protests from many of those respecting self-isolation, who lean from their windows to bang pots and pans.

His administration has also faced criticism from economists including Armínio Fraga, a former central bank governor, and Claudio Ferraz, a professor at Rio de Janeiro’s Pontifical Catholic University.

“Brazil is seeing something unique, an insurrection of governors,” Ferraz wrote on Twitter. “This will become a new topic in political science: checks and balances by governors in a Federal System.”

Candido Bracher, president of Brazil’s largest private bank, Itaú Unibanco, criticized Bolsonaro's crisis management in an interview with the newspaper O Globo published Wednesday. His bank and companies like oil giant Petrobras, iron miner Vale and the brewery Ambev have made large donations to state governments for helping fight the outbreak.

Rio de Janeiro Gov. Wilson Witzel, another former ally of Bolsonaro, told the president in the videoconference that he won’t heed the president’s call to loosen social distancing protocols.

Last week, the governor announced he would shut down airports and interstate roads, which Bolsonaro annulled by decree contending that only the federal government can adopt such measures. By the time the president took to the airwaves Tuesday evening, a Supreme Court justice had ruled in favor of Witzel and the governors.

Two days earlier Brazil's top court issued another ruling allowing Sao Paulo state to stop repaying federal government debt amounting to $400 million so that it can beef up its health sector. The decision may set a precedent for other states.

As of Wednesday, Brazil had about 2,400 confirmed coronavirus cases and 57 deaths related to the outbreak. Experts say the figures could soar in April, potentially causing a collapse of the country's health care system. There is particular concern the virus’ potential damage in the ultra-dense, low-income neighborhoods known as favelas.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death.

Sao Paulo, Brazil’s economic engine, is home to the majority of the coronavirus cases. It has been under partial lockdown since Tuesday, and schools, universities and non-essential businesses have mostly been closed for more than 10 days. Rio state has adopted similar measures, including closing its beaches.

Other governors who hadn’t voiced criticism have begun doing so.

Gov. Ronaldo Caiado of Goiás state, a doctor who had been a close Bolsonaro ally, told reporters Wednesday he is redefining their relationship.

“I cannot allow the president to wash his hands and hold others responsible for coming economic collapse and loss of jobs," Caiado said. "That is not the behavior of a leader.”

Caiado joined a meeting late Wednesday of Brazil's 26 state governors to coordinate their efforts. The federal government wasn’t invited.

Santa Catarina Gov. Carlos Moisés of Santa Catarina state, which gave almost 80% of its votes to Bolsonaro in the 2018 presidential runoff election, issued a statement saying he was “blown away” by the president’s speech. Moisés said he will insist that residents stay home during the pandemic, ignoring the president’s advice.


Associated Press writer Mauricio Savarese reported this story in Sao Paulo and AP writer David Biller reported from Rio de Janeiro.

  • Associated Categories: Associated Press (AP), AP World News, AP Business, AP Business - Corporate News, AP Business - Economy
© Copyright 2020
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
Canada imposes mandatory self-isolation for those returning
Canada is imposing mandatory self-isolation for those returning to Canada under the Quarantine Act
7:22PM ( 7 minutes ago )
Virus has Brazil's Bolsonaro facing governor ‘insurrection’
Brazil's governors have become the main opposition to the laid-back attitude of President Jair Bolsonaro for how to fight the coronavirus outbreak
7:19PM ( 11 minutes ago )
Trump implores Congress to move on virus rescue package
President Donald Trump is imploring Congress to move on critical coronavirus aid without further delay
7:15PM ( 15 minutes ago )
Associated Press (AP)
New York mobilizes against onslaught from the virus
Just days after New York leaders ordered people to stay home, authorities are mobilizing to head off a potential public health disaster in the big city
6:23PM ( 1 hour ago )
The Latest: UN leader encouraged by ceasefires amid virus
 U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is welcoming calls by some groups for an immediate ceasefire to tackle the coronavirus pandemic
6:16PM ( 1 hour ago )
Out of medication, US woman boards flight from Peru to US
Anna, a 33-year-old American who had run out of life-saving medication while stranded in a Peruvian hotel room, has boarded a plane home
5:43PM ( 1 hour ago )
AP World News
$2 trillion virus rescue bill hits late snags in Senate
Senate leaders are racing to unravel last-minute snags in a $2 trillion economic rescue package to ease the financial pain of the coronavirus epidemic
6:17PM ( 1 hour ago )
Chicago uses hotels for quarantine to ease hospital demand
Chicago's plan to reserve at least 1,000 hotel rooms for coronavirus patients through partnerships with five hotels is the first such strategy unveiled in the U.S. But it's unlikely to be the last
6:05PM ( 1 hour ago )
'The whole city laid off': US jobless claims climb sky high
New unemployment benefit claims are rising to levels unseen in recent U.S. history as a result of coronavirus concerns
6:00PM ( 1 hour ago )
AP Business
First signs of disruption appear in housing; markets 'calm'
Economists have been waiting for the first signs of virus-related disruptions in housing with the expectation that they will be seismic
4:21PM ( 3 hours ago )
The Latest: WHO chief says Trump is 'taking responsibility'
The head of the World Health Organization commended U.S. President Donald Trump on Wednesday for “taking responsibility” for leading the response to the COVID-19 pandemic
3:27PM ( 4 hours ago )
As outbreak blows up finances, a limit to EU solidarity
The European Union is taking unprecedented action to help member countries endure the massive cost of to keeping people and businesses alive through the virus outbreak
12:51PM ( 6 hours ago )
AP Business - Corporate News
Stocks jump, heading for first back-to-back gain in 6 weeks
Stocks are leaping to more big gains on Wednesday, as Congress moves closer to approving a $2 trillion rescue plan for the economy
2:46PM ( 4 hours ago )
Florida governor's coronavirus dilemma: health vs. economy
The nation's struggle to protect both lives and the economy during the coronavirus outbreak is on full display in Florida
2:32PM ( 4 hours ago )
Biden calls for 'meticulous oversight' of virus aid package
Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden says the congressional aid package addressing the coronavirus outbreak “goes a long way.”
2:12PM ( 5 hours ago )
AP Business - Economy
Canada imposes mandatory self-isolation for those returning
Canada is imposing mandatory self-isolation for those returning to Canada under the Quarantine Act
7:22PM ( 8 minutes ago )
Trump implores Congress to move on virus rescue package
President Donald Trump is imploring Congress to move on critical coronavirus aid without further delay
7:15PM ( 15 minutes ago )
First signs of housing disruption appear; a call for robots
Economists have been waiting for the first signs of virus-related disruptions in housing with the expectation that they will be seismic
7:12PM ( 17 minutes ago )
What you need to know today about the virus outbreak
Senate leaders are grappling with last-minute snags in emergency legislation to rush sweeping aid totaling some $2 trillion to businesses, workers and a health care system slammed by the coronavirus pandemic
6:47PM ( 42 minutes ago )
The Latest: Burroughs planning for next year's Olympics
Wrestling star Jordan Burroughs has no plans to retire, announcing he is going to compete for a spot in the Olympics in 2021
6:46PM ( 43 minutes ago )