It's become blindingly obvious that the coronavirus outbreak in Brazil has spiraled out of control, offering an example of the consequences of minimal containment efforts, and causing unease across Latin America, as Brazil's neighbors move to close borders to ensure Brazilians don't carry the virus across the border.
As the situation spirals out of control, President Jair Bolsonaro is spending more time egging on his most radical supporters, who are now openly calling for a military takeover of the government, and a return to a military dictatorship with Bolsonaro at the head. Though, as the Washington Post was forced to admit, most Brazilians view the likelihood of a military intrusion into public life as remote.
Just hours after Brazil's health minister resigned following less than a month on the job, the country's public health officials reported a record 15,305 cases during the prior day. Before resigning, Health Minister Nelson Teich had criticized Bolsonaro's presidential decree calling for beauty parlors and gyms to reopen. While Teich gave no reason for his resignation, his predecessor was sacked by Bolsonaro for disagreeing with the president's opposition to lockdowns. Bolsonaro believes that the virus is nothing more than a "little flu" and that it will inevitably spread.
Brazil's Globo newspaper reported that Teich disagreed with Bolsonaro's insistence on using hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine to treat the virus, and sources said this disagreement was the last straw.
Military members of Bolsonaro'sn cabinet are pushing for deputy health minister Eduardo Pazuello, an army general on active duty, to become the new health minister, making his current "interim" position permanent, according to Reuters.
Teich's predecessor, Luiz Henrique Mandetta, was fired in April after he urged Brazilians to observe social distancing and stay indoors.
Over the past week, Brazil has surged past Germany and France on the global coronavirus depth chart and, in terms of its coronavirus caseload, it has become arguably the world's worst hotspot, since epidemiologists suspect that more than a million cases have probably gone diagnosed, along with tens of thousands of deaths.
The record number of cases brought Brazil's total north of 218,000 cases, and the 824 new deaths recorded in the last day brought Brazil's death toll to 14,817.
The governor of Sao Paolo state lashed out at Bolsonaro on Friday, comparing him to a virus: he said Brazil is suffering from two viruses right now. the coronavirus, and the Bolsonaro virus.
"Unfortunately right now in Brazil, we combat two virus: the coronavirus and the Bolsonaro virus."— Karim RAFFA (@karimraffa) May 15, 2020
João Doria, Sao Paulo's governor says the decisions he's making for his city are backed by science, and not politics pic.twitter.com/mhNzfvQhwD @QuickTake
While his supporters push a military takeover, Congressional opposition leader Alessandro Molon warned that Brazil was heading toward a public health catastrophe, and has started pushing for Bolsonaro to be impeached.
"Bolsonaro does not want a technical minister, he wants someone who agrees with his ideological insanity, like ending social distancing and using chloroquine," Molon, a lawmaker from the Brazilian Socialist Party, said in a statement.
Bolsonaro's handling of the coronavirus has been widely criticised globally as he has minimised the severity of the disease and told Brazilians to ignore quarantine restrictions.
The most hard-hit areas of Brazil are in most cases also among the most remote. Yesterday, the Washington Post published a story about the crisis in Manaus, a city of 2 million people on the Amazon River deep in the rainforest. More than 2,000 people died in Manaus last month, more than 4x the normal rate.
The city is rapidly running out of coffins, hundreds are dying at home - either because they can’t get treatment at the hospitals or because they fear they won’t - and ambulances race down streets with no clear destination, waiting for patients to die so more beds can open up.
Dwindling supplies, deteriorating health systems, endemic corruption and mismanagement have all made it impossible for developing nations to muster the same response to the crisis that Spain, Italy and the US have. In Guayaquil, Ecuador, bodies have been left out in the streets. In Loreto, Peru, corpses have been stacked haphazardly in a small hospital room, and in Brazil, patients spend their last hours and days on this planet waiting in chairs in crowded hospital emergency rooms.
After years of economic recession, Brazil has neither the money, tools or personnel to confront the problem as it stands.
If there's any major country that's truly at risk for a complete unraveling of the social fabric, at this point, it's probably Brazil.