A rich Brazilian neighbourhood, coronavirus and Bolsonaro


Dutch NOS correspondent Marc Bessems on his balcony in São Paulo, Brazil

Translated from Dutch NOS radio, 27 April 2020:

The “little flu” that threatens to topple the Brazilian president

The angry neighbor on the other side tries to out-shout the noise protest against his president. “Communists!” he screams, while neighbors knock on pots and pans around him. Lonely he stands there, on his balcony, undisturbed despite overwhelming opposition.

“Down with Bolsonaro“, my downstairs neighbor lady shouts in his direction. “Useless!” It is unclear whether she means Brazilian President Bolsonaro or the neighbor. “Fuck off to Cuba or Venezuela, bitch,” he replies.

In my wealthy neighborhood in western São Paulo, about 75 percent of residents voted for the far-right Jair Bolsonaro in 2018. Judging by the noise, many of them now seem to regret that.

Little flu

It is the beginning of April, the corona crisis has only just seized Brazil. Since March 23, the schools and most shops have been closed by order of the governor. President Bolsonaro disagrees: He compared the virus to a “little flu” and wants everyone to return to work. That is why people protest every night.

My four-year-old daughter cannot sleep. My wife has been sick in bed for some days. Because she has all the symptoms of coronavirus, my daughter and I also stay indoors preventively. As frustrating as it is, I will have to report adbout this stage of the crisis from home, as far as possible with a bored toddler in the house.

My neighborhood turns out to be a good place for a journalist: it is the epicenter of the corona epidemic in Brazil. The wealthy Brazilians were infected first. Many of our Brazilian friends and neighbors are really scared. …

Virus spreads to poor parts

[Later], the peak in this part of the city is likely to be reached. The worst seems to be over for the ‘class A’, the richest upper tier in the country. …

Meanwhile, the coronavirus spreads to the poor parts of the city and the country. In the distant Amazon, care is collapsing completely. And in the poor neighborhoods of São Paulo, more and more people are getting sick. The crisis is spreading, and that does not bode well.

Political crisis

All eyes are on Bolsonaro, and the political crisis in the capital, Brasilia. The president first fires his critical health minister and replaces him with a yes man. That evening, a large part of the neighbors hit the pots and pans again. The neighbor across the street uses heavy artillery, and plays the Brazilian national anthem on his sound system. “Long live Bolsonaro“, he screams long after the noise protest is over.

The political crisis escalates on the day that my wife, daughter and I are symptom-free for two weeks and are finally able to go outside again. The popular Minister of Justice, Sérgio Moro, has stepped down and accuses the President of political interference in police investigations [into Bolsonaro family corruption]. A political bomb that could even lead to impeachment proceedings against the President. The departure of the ‘super minister’ is also disastrous for the popularity of Bolsonaro.

Eg, the talk of the day is again the political crisis, not the more than 58,000 registered corona infections and more than 4,000 deaths. As soon as the president starts his umpteenth television speech, the neighbors start ramming on pots and padns again. But one thing stands out: this time the neighbor, the persistent Bolsonaro fan, is silent.

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