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Brazil and Canada go head to head at the SheBelieves Cup in Orlando, Florida.
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Brazil and Canada go head to head at the SheBelieves Cup in Orlando, Florida.
Canada paid for some slack defending in the first half Wednesday, beaten 2-0 by Brazil in the SheBelieves Cup.
The Canadian women were second-best for much of the game at Exploria Stadium.
Debinha and Julia scored for Brazil, which punished Canadian mistakes in the tournament finale for both teams. After an uneven start, the Brazilians took control and showed their attacking flair against a Canadian backline that was pretty green other than centre back Shelina Zadorsky.
Brazil played deeper as the second half wore on, allowing the Canadians more room on attack in the final minutes. They could not convert, although Zadorsky came close in the 84th minute, kicking out a leg twice while on the ground to force consecutive goal-line stops from goalkeeper Barbara and defender Bruna off a Janine Beckie set piece.
WATCH | Canada blanked by Brazil:
The two teams came into Wednesday’s game tied for eighth in the world rankings, with 8-8-7 records against each other. They drew 2-2 last March when they last met, at a tournament in France in Canada’s last outing prior to the SheBelieves Cup.
Canada opened the Florida tournament with a 1-0 loss to the top-ranked United States before defeating No. 31 Argentina 1-0. Brazil beat Argentina 4-1 and lost 2-0 to the U.S.
The defending champion Americans (2-0-0) faced Argentina (0-2-0) in the late game Wednesday.
The Canadian women’s next game is an April 13 away friendly against No. 6 England.
Coach Bev Priestman made four changes to her starting lineup, with Desiree Scott, Deanne Rose, Sarah Stratigakis and Jayde Riviere coming in against Brazil. Scott captained the team in place of Sophie Schmidt.
WATCH | Canada earns lone win against Argentina:
The starting 11 came into the match with a combined 604 caps, with Scott accounting for 157 of those. Schmidt came on during second-half stoppage time for her 202nd cap.
Canada showed more purpose in the early going, stroking the ball around and stretching the Brazilians. But Brazil went ahead in the 14th minute after a giveaway by 18-year-old centre back Jade Rose, earning her second cap.
Adriana outmuscled Jessie Fleming for the ball and, after a nice interplay with Debinha, charged into the Canadian penalty box and slid a diagonal shot through goalkeeper Stephanie Labbe’s legs from close range. The ball hit the far post and bounced back towards the shooter, with Debinha poking it into goal before Labbe and Zadorsky could corral it.
It looked like more bad news for Canada in the 27th minute when Labbe went down, clutching her calf after planting her leg expecting a shot. Labbe stayed on, however, while the uncapped Rylee Foster — the only other goalkeeper left in the Canadian camp after injuries to Erin McLeod and Kailen Sheridan — warmed up on the sideline.
The goal spurred Brazil on and Canada paid for some more sloppy defence late in the half. Julia hammered home a shot in the 39th minute after a penalty box scramble that saw Rose, Riviere and Gabrielle Carle all unable to clear the ball.
Nichelle Prince had a chance to pull one back soon after a clearance by Barbara went straight to a Canadian. But Prince’s long-range effort did not make it on target.
Adriana’s shot from distance hit the crossbar in the 45th minute, thanks to a touch from an outstretched Labbe.
Brazil outshot Canada 8-1 (3-0 in shots on target) in the first half and had 58 per cent possession.
Riviere limped off in the 56th minute, favouring her knee, giving way to Lindsay Agnew at right back. Canada came close in the 72st minute but sliding substitute Adriana Leon could not get a foot to a low cross from Beckie, perhaps Canada’s best player on the day.
Canada went into the tournament missing injured captain Christine Sinclair and midfielder Diana Matheson. McLeod, Sheridan and defender Bianca St-Georges subsequently were hurt and dropped out.
Defenders Kadeisha Buchanan and Ashley Lawrence and forward Jordyn Huitema were not released by their French clubs because of pandemic-related quarantine issues. Defender Vanessa Gilles returned to her French club after the loss to the U.S. as part of a pre-tournament agreement.
With players missing, Priestman used the tournament to give Listro, Viens, Jade Rose and Samantha Chang their first caps with the senior side.
The only four Canadians to start all three games at the tournament were Zadorsky, Fleming, Beckie and Prince.
Allysha Chapman and Quinn, who goes by one name, were unavailable Wednesday due to injury.
Heading into its final game of the SheBelieves Cup, the Canadian women’s soccer team is focusing on being both patient and relentless.
It’s two characteristics may seem in contradiction of one another, but Canada will need equal parts of both to contend against Brazil Wednesday night (4 p.m. ET).
At this point of the four-team tournament in Orlando, Fla, it’s been a mixed bag for coach Bev Preistman’s side. First, a hard-fought 1-0 loss to arch rivals from the United States in which the Canadians didn’t allow a goal until the 79th minute. Then a 1-0 stoppage-time victory over Argentina, though the match was frustrating with a staggered tempo.
“We need to improve on our patience, building up out of the back … making sure we find our players, but then once we get forward in the attacking third, being more dangerous,” said midfielder Sophie Schmidt, who recently picked up her 201st cap for Canada.
“I think that we’re a bit sloppy with our passes, we need to find people’s feet and then put shots on goal and score some more goals.
“It’s an easy recipe but harder to execute.”
Now on Wednesday, it’s a familiar opponent in Brazil, the team Canada beat 2-1 for the bronze medal at the 2016 Rio Olympics.
The last time these two squads met was 11 months ago, and this time the Canadian team will look a whole lot different.
There is no Christine Sinclair or Diana Matheson (both missing the SheBelieves with injuries), nor Kadeisha Buchanan, Ashley Lawrence and Jordyn Huitema (who weren’t released from their clubs).
WATCH | Canada drops opener to U.S.:
The roster challenges haven’t stopped there. Goalkeeper Kailen Sheridan picked up an injury in the early minutes of the U.S. game. Quinn, who was very strong in midfield against the Americans, sustained an injury in training and will be re-evaluated ahead of the Brazil match. And one of the standout players for Canada in the opening game, centre back Vanessa Gilles, was sent back to her FC Girondins de Bordeaux, as part of a pre-tournament agreement.
Those aforementioned roster challenges, as well as the back-to-back-to-back match format of the tournament, has forced Priestman’s hand to play newer and younger players, which is not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, one of them, second-half substitute Sarah Stratigakis, scored the winning goal on Sunday against Argentina.
Another positive saw four players — Evelyn Viens, Jordyn Listro, Jade Rose and Samantha Chang — all earning their first caps in the tournament. Only goalkeeper Rylee Foster has yet to earn her first appearance at the senior level.
But for all the affirmations, creating quality chances and scoring goals is still a sore spot.
In Canada’s last five games dating back to last March’s Tournoi de France, Canada has scored just three times. Two of them came in a 2-2 draw against Brazil on March 10, 2020. The other was the one against Argentina over the weekend.
Priestman said while she would obviously like to see more balls in the back of the net, it’s more about trusting the process. The team is only back together after nearly a year, there are a plethora of new faces and partnerships are just starting to mesh.
“It’s going to come and it does take time,” she said after the Argentina game. “[As a] group we’ve been doing extra work at the end of training for forwards to get more reps in and things like that. We’re doing everything we can. The group is aware of it.”
WATCH | Canadian women rebound against Argentina:
Without Sinclair and her 186 international goals, the question has been who will find that killer instinct in front of goal.
What few quality chances Canada has created at the SheBelieves Cup, the final pass or final finish hasn’t been there. Janine Beckie, who has 31 goals for Canada, had two golden opportunities in the six-yard box against the U.S., Jessie Fleming had two quality scoring chances against Argentina and Nichelle Prince has been lively in both games but hasn’t scored.
However, like Priestman said, it feels like only a matter of time before everything clicks and they’ve been putting the emphasis on moving the ball quicker, taking less touches and finding that forward pass.
“The group needs to keep believing and keep pushing, whatever it takes to win,” she said. “I think going into this Brazil game I’d like for them to see a mindset where we really take it to Brazil. I felt we did that early against the U.S.”
Like Canada, Brazil has a new coach on board, though a very experienced one at that. Pia Sundhage took the reins of the team in July 2019 after a disappointing exit in the Round of 16 at the World Cup. The former U.S. and Sweden coach has brought more defensive organization to the club, who’ve been known to have blistering offensive attacks with the likes of Marta and Debinha but are lacking in the defensive third.
“Their shape is harder to break down,” said Priestman. “They’re dangerous on the counter attack so again we have to put an emphasis on competing and being hard to beat. I think they have some threats for sure. They’re a tough team to play against.”
Added Schmidt: “We’ve faced them so many times, we know each other very well and I think it’s going to be a good match and a test of where we stand as a team in this year.
“They’re a great side, very tactically smart, amazing with their feet and I think it’s going to be a battle once again.
“Looking forward to it.”
In a match many considered a must-win for Canada, five men scored twice in a tournament-opening 11-7 victory over Brazil on Sunday at the FINA water polo Olympic qualifier in Rotterdam, Netherlands.
“We played well as a team today,” Gardijan told Water Polo Canada. “Our defence limited [Brazil’s] chances and we were able to stay focused throughout the game.”
Three of the 12 teams will secure a spot at the Tokyo Games this summer, joining Australia, Hungary, Italy, Japan, Kazakhstan, Serbia, South Africa, Spain and United States.
Canada, ranked 13th in the world, is also facing No. 6 Montenegro, No. 8 Greece, Georgia and Turkey in group play at the week-long event. Greece and Montenegro, in no particular order, are expected to secure the top two spots in Group A, with two other teams also advancing to the crossover quarter-finals on Feb. 19.
WATCH | Canada strikes early, often to begin Olympic qualifier:
“There’s a monumental difference between placing third or fourth in the group,” CBC Sports analyst George Gross Jr. said earlier this week. “The fourth-place finisher will cross over to play [likely Group B winner] Croatia [ranked No. 2] and it’s goodbye Charlie, but the team finishing third is going to draw a [favourable opponent].
Canada faces Montenegro on Monday at 11:30 a.m. ET.
“It will be a tough match [but] we tied them at worlds in 2017, so anything is possible,” Gardijan said.
Greece edged Georgia 11-10 in other Group A action on Sunday.
Meanwhile, the Canadians jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the first quarter at Zwemcentrum Rotterdam, only to watch the Brazilians battle back to even matters before Côté notched the go-ahead goal with two seconds on the clock.
Constantin-Bicari is likely to be the offensive force for a young outfit featuring many players making their Olympic qualification debut while Côté, a six-foot-two attacker from Montreal, is a standout offensive player with University of the Pacific Tigers in Stockton, Calif.
Brazil pulled even again early in the second quarter but Gardijan restored Canada’s lead before halftime with a gem of a shot with a man up.
Canada’s Aleksa Gardijan with a perfectly placed floater to seal the deal for Canada<br><br>They open their Olympic qualifying tournament with an 11-7 win over Brazil 🇨🇦 <a href=”https://twitter.com/waterpolocanada?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@waterpolocanada</a> <a href=”https://t.co/tb2OIX7pYf”>pic.twitter.com/tb2OIX7pYf</a>
Canada extended its lead to 7-4 early in the third as Constantin-Bicari recorded his second of the game on a rebound off goalkeeper Slobodan Soro, then Côté added his second.
Climate change will increase the burdens on Brazil’s armed forces and endanger the country’s energy and water security, military experts predicted Monday.
A group of senior military leaders said deforestation in the Amazon region could alter rainfall patterns in Brazil, hitting hydropower plants — the country’s major source of energy — and water supplies for major urban centres.
Brazil’s armed forces also could be stretched thin as they respond to an uptick in humanitarian crises caused by climate change in the country, the officials said in a report by the International Military Council on Climate and Security (IMCCS).
“Brazilian leaders should make climate change and counter-deforestation a security priority,” said Oliver-Leighton Barrett, the council’s liaison for the Americas, during an online presentation of the report.
Brazil is highly dependent on hydropower, with about 63 per cent of the country’s electricity coming from water-related sources, according to government data from 2019.
The country is also already struggling to cope with worsening drought, which helped drive fires that scorched 30 per cent of its vast western Pantanal wetlands this year.
Between 2014 and 2016, Brazil’s most populous state of Sao Paulo faced unprecedented water shortages that led to street protests.
“If it had gone much longer it would have been a major humanitarian crisis,” Barrett said of the Sao Paulo drought.
Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro is an outspoken critic of efforts to curb climate change, and also has said he wants to develop the Amazon region to lift it out of poverty.
The president, a former army captain, has relied on Brazil’s military to alleviate humanitarian crises in the country and to monitor the Amazon, where deforestation has surged again after years of advances in cutting losses.
The report said that whole military forces across Latin America are called in regularly to help with humanitarian crises, and “this will continue as climate change drives more disasters.”
The Amazon rainforest — the world’s largest tropical forest — is a major absorber of planet-heating carbon dioxide.
Its continuing loss threatens to accelerate global climate-related disasters — from worsening droughts, floods and storms to soaring temperatures and rising sea levels.
To preserve the forest and protect Brazil’s water supplies, the country needs to develop the Amazon, but in a sustainable way, said Raul Jungmann, Brazil’s defence minister from 2016 to 2018.
Brazil’s armed forces are conservationists, he said — but they see protecting national security, including from foreign interference, as a top priority.
“The armed forces have environmental actions as subsidiary. This is not their main focus,” said Jungmann. “The armed forces are primarily concerned with national sovereignty.”
He said he believes Brazil’s Vice-President Hamilton Mourao, who leads the government’s Amazon Council, is dedicated to stopping deforestation but lacks support within the government.
A thousand deaths a day.
Since late May, three months after Brazil’s first reported case of the coronavirus, it has recorded more than 1,000 daily deaths on average in a gruesome plateau that has yet to tilt downward.
On Thursday evening, the federal Health Ministry reported that the country had passed two million confirmed cases and 76,000 deaths.
Even as cases wane somewhat in the biggest and hardest-hit Brazilian cities, the virus is peaking in new locations across the largest country in Latin America.
Experts blame denial of the virus’ deadly potential by President Jair Bolsonaro and lack of national co-ordination combined with scattershot responses by city and state governments, with some reopening earlier than health experts recommended.
WATCH | Bolsonaro tests positive:
An interim health minister untrained in the field is presiding over pandemic response. Bolsonaro himself is sick with COVID-19 after repeatedly flouting social distance recommendations and undermining local leaders’ restrictions on activity.
Brazil’s roughly 7,000 COVID-19 deaths in each of the last seven weeks is equal to several airplanes packed with Brazilians crashing every day, former health minister Luiz Henrique Mandetta told The Associated Press.
“People have become callous,” Mandetta said. “When you say, `Yesterday there were 1,300 deaths,’ people say, `OK, then it didn’t go up. It was 1,300 people the day before, too.”‘
Brazil’s nearly two million cases is second only to the United States and experts believe the number to be an under count due to widespread lack of testing. A model created by professors from several Brazilian academic institutions, based on the number of confirmed deaths, estimates Brazil has had 10 million infections.
“The virus would have been difficult to stop anyway. But this milestone of two million cases, which is very underestimated, shows this could have been different,” said Dr. Adriano Massuda, a health-care administration specialist and professor at the Getulio Vargas Foundation, a Sao Paulo university. “There’s no national strategy for testing, no measures from the top … too little effort to improve basic care so we find serious cases before they become too serious, no tracking.”
The virus has begun reaching cities and states previously spared, offsetting declines elsewhere. The number of deaths has been ebbing in states including Rio de Janeiro and Amazonas, where people were buried in mass graves in the capital, Manaus. In the last two weeks, 10 of Brazil’s 26 states and its Federal District saw increases, with two southern states’ average daily death tolls doubling.
Bolsonaro has consistently downplayed COVID-19’s severity, saying strict social distancing measures that sacrifice jobs and income will ultimately be more harmful than the virus itself, and calling on supporters to encourage their local leaders to lift restrictions on activity. Many mayors and governors have struggled to hold the line.
In Ribeirao Preto, a city in Sao Paulo state, protesting shopkeepers on Wednesday demanded they be allowed to reopen. They surrounded the mayor’s car as he left City Hall, punching his windows and cursing at him.
Campinas, a city of 1.2 million people closer to the state’s capital, adopted quarantine measures early, but succumbed to political pressure and reopened commerce on June 8, said Pedro de Siqueira, a Campinas city councilman. The city centre swarmed with shoppers like an overturned anthill, he said in an interview.
Two weeks later, the number of COVID-19 deaths had roughly tripled to 253, as did the number of confirmed cases, to 6,324. Intensive-care beds refilled with patients, prompting the mayor to reinstate restrictions on commerce on June 22, but allowing offices and churches to continue operating.
“Campinas reopened prematurely and erroneously, supported by the state government,” Siqueira, who is also a public health physician, said at the time. “This reopening was so catastrophic that Campinas had to step back, but did so only partially.”
Since then, Campinas’ number of cases and deaths has doubled once more. On Wednesday, the city extended restrictions until July 30.
Daniel Soranz, a researcher at state-run biology institute Fiocruz’s national health school, said Brazil’s center-west that includes the agricultural heartland will be the last region slammed by the virus. And, looking at deaths from severe respiratory insufficiency, it appears Brazil as a whole has begun turning the corner, he said.
“By the end of August, we should be at a much better place than today,” Soranz said.
In Sao Paulo, Brazil’s most populous state with 46 million residents, the number of deaths has stabilized at a level slightly below its peak. At one of the capital’s cemeteries on Wednesday, Michelle Caverni buried her 88-year-old aunt, who died of COVID-19 and also suffered from pulmonary emphysema. The same day a friend of Caverni’s buried her 57-year-old mother. She also died of COVID-19.
“Until it knocks at your door, people are indifferent,” said Caverni, 40, a restaurant cook. “Yesterday there were 1,300 deaths from COVID-19. Is that supposed to be few? People are saying that’s just the media. I hear that every day at work.”
Most people show only moderate symptoms from COVID-19 and recover. Some, including the elderly or those with longstanding health problems, are more susceptible to severe illness, including pneumonia, or death.
Modeling by the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation projects that Brazil’s death toll will reach almost 200,000 by November, nearly closing the gap with that of the U.S. The forecast has a wide margin of error.
“We will see how this patient known as Brazil will behave until the end of this epidemic,” said Mandetta, who Bolsonaro fired as health minister in April for backing state governors’ quarantine measures.
Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro says he has tested positive for the coronavirus after months of downplaying the virus’s severity.
Bolsonaro confirmed the test results while wearing a mask and speaking to reporters in the capital Brasilia.
“I’m well, normal. I even want to take a walk around here, but I can’t due to medical recommendations,” Bolsonaro said. “I thought I had it before, given my very dynamic activity. I’m president and on the combat lines. I like to be in the middle of the people.”
Bolsonaro, 65, said he is taking hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin as a result of the positive test.
On Monday, Bolsonaro told supporters in Brasilia that he underwent an X-ray of his lungs that showed they were clean, and that he would be tested for coronavirus. On Tuesday, he told CNN Brasil that his fever had subsided.
Bolsonaro’s response to the coronavirus has been highly criticized. His government has seen two health ministers depart since the beginning of the pandemic, which has hit Brazil with a vengeance since May.
Bolsonaro has also extensively promoted the use of the anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine in response to COVID-19, despite skepticism among health experts over its efficacy.
Brazil, the world’s sixth most populous nation, with more than 210 million people, is one of the global hot spots of the pandemic. More than 65,000 have died there so far from COVID-19, and more than 1,500,000 have been infected. Both numbers are the world’s second-highest totals, and are considered to be undercounts due to the lack of widespread testing.
The president has often appeared in public to shake hands with supporters and mingle with crowds, at times without a mask. He has said that his history as an athlete would protect him from the virus, and that it would be nothing more than a “little flu” were he to contract it.
He has also repeatedly said that there is no way to prevent 70 per cent of the population falling ill with COVID-19, and that local authorities’ measures to shut down economic activity would ultimately cause more hardship than allowing the virus to run its course.
Bolsonaro on Tuesday repeated those sentiments, comparing the virus to a rain that will fall on most people, and that some, like the elderly, must take greater care.
“You can’t just talk about the consequences of the virus that you have to worry about. Life goes on. Brazil needs to produce. You need to get the economy in gear,” he said.
Bolsonaro said he has cancelled a trip to the northeast region that was planned for this week. He will continue working via video conference and receive rare visitors when he needs to sign a document, he said.
Over the weekend, the Brazilian leader celebrated the U.S. Independence Day with the nation’s ambassador to Brazil, then shared pictures on social media showing him with his arm around the ambassador alongside several ministers and aides. None wore masks, despite being in close quarters.
The U.S. Embassy said on Twitter on Monday that Ambassador Todd Chapman is not showing any COVID-19 symptoms but would be tested.
Bolsonaro tested negative three times in March after meeting with President Donald Trump in Florida. Multiple members of his delegation to the U.S., including his communications director Fabio Wajngarten, were later reported to be infected with the virus.
Brazil withdrew its bid to host the 2023 Women’s World Cup, arguing on Monday it cannot offer FIFA the financial assurances it needs because of the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. The confederation said the administration of President Jair Bolsonaro told FIFA it could not offer financial guarantees “due to the scenario of fiscal and economic austerity, caused by the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.” The confederation “understands the position of caution of the Brazilian government, and of other public and private partners, which stopped them from formalizing the commitments within time or in the required form,” the statement added. Brazil’s economy is expected to contract this year by at least 7.4 per cent, investment bank Goldman Sachs predicts. The country is the hardest hit by COVID-19 in Latin America, with more than 37,000 confirmed deaths. Brazil’s soccer body also said the high number of big sporting events in the last decade could also harm the chances of its bid to host the Women’s World Cup.
Brazil withdrew its bid to host the 2023 Women’s World Cup, arguing on Monday it cannot offer FIFA the financial assurances it needs because of the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
The confederation said the administration of President Jair Bolsonaro told FIFA it could not offer financial guarantees “due to the scenario of fiscal and economic austerity, caused by the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
The confederation “understands the position of caution of the Brazilian government, and of other public and private partners, which stopped them from formalizing the commitments within time or in the required form,” the statement added.
Brazil’s economy is expected to contract this year by at least 7.4 per cent, investment bank Goldman Sachs predicts.
The country is the hardest hit by COVID-19 in Latin America, with more than 37,000 confirmed deaths.
Brazil’s soccer body also said the high number of big sporting events in the last decade could also harm the chances of its bid to host the Women’s World Cup.
Coronavirus deaths in Brazil reached 27,878, the Health Ministry said on Friday, surpassing Spain to become the fifth-ranking nation in the number of dead. In the last 24 hours, Brazil, which now has the second-largest outbreak in the world, registered 1,124 deaths from the virus and 26,928 additional cases of the novel coronavirus.
Coronavirus deaths in Brazil reached 27,878, the Health Ministry said on Friday, surpassing Spain to become the fifth-ranking nation in the number of dead.
In the last 24 hours, Brazil, which now has the second-largest outbreak in the world, registered 1,124 deaths from the virus and 26,928 additional cases of the novel coronavirus.
With cases rising rapidly, a military general with no medical experience leading the Ministry of Health, and a president admitting there’s no proof his preferred treatment will work, Brazil has become one of the countries hardest hit by the coronavirus.
As health systems, from Sao Paulo to the Amazon, strain under the growing number of cases, policy experts say there’s little hope that the country can change course when the president is one of their biggest obstacles.
“It’s unbelievable what’s happening in Brazil. When the biggest science denier in the country is the president himself, what can we scientists do?” said Natalia Pasternak, a microbiologist and researcher at the Institute of Biomedical Sciences at the University of Sao Paulo.
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has been among the world leaders most dismissive of the coronavirus, initially downplaying it as a “little flu,” then later responding “so what” when asked about the country’s rising death toll.
His own Ministry of Health had opposed him, promoting physical distancing and quarantines, but Bolsonaro fired popular Health Minister Luiz Henrique Mandetta in April, and then forced his replacement Nelson Teich to resign last week. Both were trained doctors.
“I don’t see any hope in the short term,” Pasternak said. “I think the numbers are going to keep piling up and a lot of people are going to die until we solve the political situation.”
The World Health Organization (WHO) now considers South America the new epicentre of the pandemic, in large part because this week Brazil overtook the United Kingdom for third place in the overall number of COVID-19 cases.
Brazil has more than 310,000 cases and more than 20,000 deaths, according to statistics kept by Johns Hopkins University. The country’s Ministry of Health believes the numbers are likely higher because of a lack of effective testing.
WATCH | Bolsonaro minimizes COVID-19 surge in Brazil, promotes hydroxychloroquine:
“Are people dying? Yes they are, and I regret that. But many more are going to die if the economy continues to be destroyed because of these (lockdowns),” Bolsonaro said earlier this month.
On Thursday, Brazil reported more than 18,500 infections, while also suffering a record 1,188 daily coronavirus deaths, eclipsing its previous high set earlier in the week.
“It’s a very grave situation,” said Humberto Costa, a Brazilian senator and former health minister under former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva.
In Sao Paulo, the country’s largest city, fresh graves continue to be dug up in the sprawling Formosa cemetery. Health officials say they’re losing the battle against the virus and the system will be overrun. City and state officials moved holidays up from June and July to this weekend to create an extended break to encourage physical distancing.
In Manaus, the largest city in the Amazon rainforest, the mayor is warning that Indigenous tribes will be decimated by the coronavirus. Amazonas state, where Manaus is located, is one of the hardest hit regions of the country.
“I fear genocide and I want to denounce this thing to the whole world. We have here a government that does not care about the lives of the Indians,” Manaus Mayor Arthur Virgilio Neto said.
While other countries have waited for some signs of the virus slowing down before reopening the economy, Bolsonaro has continually pushed for Brazilians to get back to work, putting him at odds with state governors and mayors trying to curb the spread through lockdowns and quarantines.
“He denies the severity of the disease and he only makes political calculations about what’s best for him,” Costa said.
Observers say Bolsonaro is thinking first about re-election in two years, promoting an economic agenda that resonates with the country’s poorest, who can’t afford to isolate themselves at home.
“He’s following his instinct that the economy needs to reopen and the country cannot face an economic crisis so deep,” said Marcio Coimbra, a political strategist in the capital, Brasilia.
“The middle class and upper class are against the president,” Coimbra said. “But on the other side, the poor people who need to work, they are there supporting the president.”
Costa said Bolsonaro’s actions now are laying the groundwork for what will happen in a few months’ time if the country’s economy continues to suffer because of lockdowns meant to stop the spread of COVID-19.
Bolsonaro “will say, ‘I told you that the virus was a little problem, the governors and mayors made the wrong measures,'” Costa said.
Some of Bolsonaro’s highest profile clashes have been with his own Ministry of Health. In April, he fired Health Minister Luis Henrique Mandetta who had gained in popularity with his daily technical briefings.
His replacement, Nelson Teich, resigned last week, after refusing to promote Bolsonaro’s desire for wider use of the anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine as a treatment for COVID-19. Interim Health Minister Eduardo Pazuello immediately approved the plan, going against the recommendations of WHO experts in Brazil.
WATCH | Brazil’s worsening COVID-19 crisis:
“We are at war: Worse than being defeated is the shame of not having fought,” Bolsonaro wrote in a post on his official Facebook page in response to his critics.
Pazuello is a military general known as a logistics expert, with no health background. Costa said Pazuello is staffing the ministry with people with military experience, rather than health expertise, which will further hamper the country’s efforts to fight the virus.
“They are politicizing the problem, it’s not a question of science, it’s not a question of medicine, it’s just a question of politics,” Costa said.
Like his ally U.S. President Donald Trump, Bolsonaro has pushed hydroxychloroquine as a solution to the pandemic, despite admitting that there’s no proof it works.
Health policy expert Miguel Lago said Bolsonaro’s support for the drug is more about politics than medicine.
“Bolsonaro is a very smart politician and he’s trying to understand what can fit a narrative where he appears to be a great leader,” said Lago, executive director of the Institute for Health Policy Studies, a non-profit group based in Rio de Janeiro.
On Friday, a profanity-laced video showing Bolsonaro expressing frustration at his inability to get information from police and vowing to change cabinet ministers if needed to protect his family was released at the order of a Supreme Court justice.
The two-hour video of a cabinet meeting, with portions redacted, was released as part of a probe into allegations that the president was trying to improperly meddle in the federal police, a claim made by former Justice Minister Sergio Moro when he resigned last month.
Moro told investigators that Bolsonaro openly demanded he make changes in key federal police positions, including the head of the agency. Moro resigned after Bolsonaro fired the federal police director-general without consulting him.
The video shows the president complaining, “I already tried to change our security in Rio de Janeiro and I couldn’t. That is over. I will not wait [for them] to [profanity] my entire family just for fun, or a friend of mine.”
Bolsonaro has insisted he was referring to the head of his security detail, though he had successfully changed that position recently. Moro said the president was alluding to the head of police operations in Rio, who presumably might have been involved in investigations into the president’s sons, who live there.
Lago said the only hope for Brazil’s efforts lies in state governors and local politicians ignoring directives from the president. States have enforced their own measures in defiance of Bolsonaro’s views, including mandatory masks in public and limits on traffic in major cities
“After two months, we shouldn’t be expecting anything good from the federal government in the sense we should only rely on our local governments.”
Impeachment has been discussed in Brazil. The speaker of the lower house, Rodrigo Maia, has more than 30 requests to remove Bolsonaro, but hasn’t acted on them.
The president has maintained control of a fractured Congress, by striking a deal with a centrist group of parties that represent about 40 per cent of votes.
“If he keeps delivering power for votes in Congress, he’ll be able to stay in power until the end of his term,” Coimbra said.
Costa said the peak of COVID-19 cases could come sometime in the middle of June; some projections show Brazil could end up with more than 100,000 dead and more than a million people infected.
According to statistics from the Brazlian tech company Inloco, just over 42 per cent of Brazilians are practising physical distancing, down from a high of around 62 per cent around the end of March.
WATCH | Bolsonaro minimizes COVID-19 surge in Brazil, promotes hydroxychloroquine:
Pasternak said the president’s example, holding rallies, shaking hands and hugging supporters, sends the wrong message to Brazilians who look to him for leadership. She worries about the direction the country is headed.
“I don’t see any light at the end of the tunnel right now.”