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The Brazilian president, Jair Bolsonaro, has triggered a wave of revulsion by telling citizens to stop “whining” about a coronavirus outbreak that has killed more than 260,000 people.
The far-right populist made the inflammatory declaration on Thursday, as Brazil’s already dire Covid situation deteriorated and its average daily death toll rose above that of the United States.
“Stop all this fussing and whining. How long are you going to keep on crying?” Bolsonaro asked supporters in the midwestern state of Goiás, where nearly 9,000 people have died.
With vaccination stuck in first gear, infections surging, intensive care units reaching capacity and close to 2,000 lives being lost each day, the answer looks certain to be quite some time. A report in the Valor Econômico newspaper on Friday claimed senior health ministry officials believed the daily death toll was likely to “explode” to more than 3,000 in the coming weeks.
Against that backdrop, Bolsonaro’s comments – widely seen as designed to distract from awkward reports about his son’s purchase of a luxury mansion – caused outrage.
“Impeachment and jail for this crook,” tweeted Ciro Gomes, a prominent leftist rival, calling Bolsonaro “the gravedigger of Brazil”.
The composer Zeca Baleiro tweeted: “A president who says ‘stop whining and fussing’ at the most critical, painful and heart-rending moment the Brazilian people have faced since the start of the pandemic isn’t just a bungling politician, a bad man or a moron. He’s an incurable sociopath.”
One of the doyens of Brazilian diplomacy compared Bolsonaro to the Ugandan dictator Idi Amin, under whose brutal rule tens of thousands of lives were lost.
“Today, in the eyes of the world, Bolsonaro occupies the space that belonged to Idi Amin,” the former ambassador to the US, Rubens Ricupero, told Thaís Oyama, the author of a book about Brazil’s president called Storm.
Since Brazil’s Covid outbreak began last February, Bolsonaro has made a succession of outrageous, insulting and demonstrably false statements about a disease he trivializes as “a little flu”.
On 10 December last year Bolsonaro claimed Brazil had reached “the tail-end” of its epidemic and had emerged better than any other country. Since then more than 82,000 Brazilians have died.