COVID-19: Brazil Education Minister Fined For Going Maskless

A supporter of President Jair Bolsonaro wears a face mask with Bolsonaro's image during a demonstration at Copacabana beach in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on June 7, 2020. CARL DE SOUZA / AFP
A supporter of President Jair Bolsonaro wears a face mask with Bolsonaro’s image during a demonstration at Copacabana beach in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on June 7, 2020.
CARL DE SOUZA / AFP

 

Brazil’s education minister has been fined for failing to wear a face mask at a rally for President Jair Bolsonaro, who has himself repeatedly flouted Brasilia’s masks-in-public rule amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Abraham Weintraub, one of the far-right president’s most controversial ministers, appeared at a rally organized by Bolsonaro supporters Sunday.

He shook hands and posed for pictures with demonstrators — many of whom also went without masks, which have been mandatory in public in the Brazilian capital since April.

That got him a 2,000-real ($385) fine from the Brasilia district government for being “caught in public without a protective mask,” according to Brazilian media, which ran photos of his fine slip.

Weintraub said on Twitter he had not yet been notified of the fine but that it appeared authentic.

“They’re trying to shut me up at any price,” he said.

Bolsonaro, who has likened the new coronavirus to a “little flu” and condemned the “hysteria” around it, also regularly goes without a mask at weekend rallies by his supporters, though he has not been fined so far.

Weintraub has repeatedly been embroiled in controversy, making anti-Chinese comments that were widely deemed racist, misspelling words in official documents and on Twitter, and recently saying the Supreme Court’s justices are “criminals” and should be “thrown in jail.”

He alluded to that comment again Sunday, telling demonstrators: “I’ve already said my piece on what I’d do with those criminals.”

As coronavirus has surged in Brazil, which now has the second-highest death toll worldwide after the United States, tension has been mounting between Bolsonaro and both state authorities and the legislative and judicial branches of government.

The Brasilia government had banned last weekend’s rallies on grounds of fighting the spread of coronavirus.

On Saturday, after police broke up a protest camp by one group of hardcore Bolsonaro supporters, the activists tried to storm the Supreme Court building, then shot fireworks at it.

On Monday, authorities arrested six far-right activists for “anti-democratic acts.” The arrests were ordered by Supreme Court Justice Alexandre de Moraes.

Chief Justice Jose Antonio Dias Toffoli called the fireworks shot at the Supreme Court an “attack” and said in a statement he would not accept threats against the court.

Brazil President Bolsonaro Undergoes Coronavirus Test – Son

FILES) In this file photo US President Donald Trump (R) speaks with Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro during a dinner at Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Florida, on March 7, 2020. AFP

 

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has undergone a test for the new coronavirus after a top aide contracted the disease following a trip on which both met with Donald Trump, his son said on Thursday.

“President Bolsonaro has been tested for coronavirus and we are waiting for the results. However, he is not exhibiting any symptoms of the disease,” Eduardo Bolsonaro, a lawmaker, wrote on Twitter.

The far-right leader’s test results are expected Friday, Brazilian media reports said.

He cancelled a scheduled trip Thursday to the city of Mossoro, in northeastern Brazil, and his office said he had no other official events on his daily agenda.

Bolsonaro had previously sought to downplay the coronavirus outbreak, saying its severity had been “overstated.”

The news came after Bolsonaro’s communications chief, Fabio Wajngarten, tested positive for COVID-19 after a trip to the United States last weekend during which both men met with the US president at his Florida resort.

Wajngarten was photographed standing side-by-side with Trump.

But Trump said he was “not concerned,” and the White House said he did not need testing.

Trump and Vice President Mike Pence “had almost no interactions with the individual,” Trump spokeswoman Stephanie Grisham said in a statement.

They “do not require being tested at this time,” she said, explaining that US government guidelines do not recommend testing for people without symptoms.

Eduardo Bolsonaro, who also accompanied his father to the United States, said he was undergoing testing as well.

The Brazilian delegation also included Foreign Minister Ernesto Araujo, who cut short a subsequent trip to Washington Thursday to return to Brazil. He would follow all current protocols on the virus, his office said.

AFP

Trump Doesn’t Need To Undergo Coronavirus Test, Says White House

(FILES) In this file photo US President Donald Trump (L) speaks with Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro during a dinner at Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Florida, on March 7, 2020.  AFP

 

President Donald Trump does not need testing for coronavirus despite having met with an aide to Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro who was found afterwards to test positive, the White House said Thursday.

“The White House is aware of public reports that a member of the Brazilian delegation… tested positive for COVID-19,” Trump spokeswoman Stephanie Grisham said in a statement.

Trump and Vice President Mike Pence “had almost no interactions with the individual” during Bolsonaro’s trip to a Trump golf club in Florida last weekend.

They “do not require being tested at this time,” she said.

Grisham said that under government guidelines “there is currently no indication to test patients without symptoms, and only people with prolonged close exposure to confirmed positive cases should self-quarantine.”

AFP

Brazilian President Loses Memory Temporarily After Falling

Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro gestures while attending a Christmas event, at the Federal District public school in Brasilia on December 19, 2019. BETO BARATA / AFP

 

 

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro temporarily lost his memory after hitting his head in a fall at his official residence, he said in an interview on Tuesday.

The 64-year-old slipped Monday night in a bathroom at the Alvorada Palace, the latest health scare for the Brazilian leader who was wounded in a knife attack in September 2018 while campaigning for the presidency.

“At that moment I lost memory,” he said of the fall.

“The following day, this morning, I managed to get back a lot of things and now I am fine,” Bolsonaro said in a telephone interview with Band television.

“I didn’t know, for example, what I did yesterday.”

Bolsonaro spent the night at the Armed Forces Hospital in Brasilia under observation and was released Tuesday “with the recommendation that he rest,” his office said in a statement.

A cranial CT scan detected no anomalies, the statement said.

“I slipped and fell on my back. It was a nasty enough blow but I’m going to take care of myself,” Bolsonaro said in the interview.

His health has been a subject of concern ever since he became president on January 1.

He has undergone four surgeries to treat the stab wound to his abdomen, most recently in September.

Earlier this month, Bolsonaro said he had been examined for skin cancer.

“My health is fine,” he told Band TV, but added “there are some consequences” of the stabbing.

“One adapts to this new reality. The knife wound together with age is a dangerous mixture,” he said.

Earlier in the day, Bolsonaro tweeted passages from the Bible: “For if they fall, one will lift up his companion.

“But woe to him who is alone when he falls, for he has no one to help him up,” he said, quoting Ecclesiastes.

AFP

Brazil’s Bolsonaro Rejects Trump’s Claim Of Currency Manipulation

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro gestures during the International Youth Day celebration at Planalto Palace in Brasilia on August 16, 2019. AFP

 

President Jair Bolsonaro on Wednesday rejected US accusations that Brazil has weakened its currency against the dollar, instead blaming global factors, after Washington announced plans to reimpose tariffs on Brazilian steel and aluminum.

Bolsonaro’s remarks come after he was blindsided by President Donald Trump’s announcement Monday about tariffs, which also would affect Argentina.

Trump charged the Latin American countries with “presiding over a massive devaluation of their currencies.”

“We are not artificially increasing the price of the dollar,” said Bolsonaro, who considers himself an ideological ally of Trump, outside his residence in the capital Brasilia.

“The world is globalizing — even the fight between the United States and China impacts the price of the dollar here.”

The Brazilian currency slid to a historic low of 4.27 reais to the dollar toward the end of November, prompting the central bank to intervene to prop it up.

Bolsonaro denied he was disappointed by Trump’s announcement, saying the case was “not closed.”

“For now, no tariff has been imposed — there’s only Trump’s promise on Twitter.”

He added: “I believe in Trump… we have an agreement, very cordial contact.”

Bolsonaro’s remarks come a day after official data showed Brazil’s economy — Latin America’s biggest — picked up pace in the third quarter, growing a better-than-expected 0.6 percent from the previous three-month period.

Brazil’s Bolsonaro Says ‘Worst Is Yet To Come’ On Oil Spill

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro attends the changing of the guard ceremony at Planalto Palace in Brasilia, on July 31, 2019./AFP

 

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro said Sunday that “the worst is yet to come” with an oil spill that has affected more than 200 beaches on the country’s coast.

“What came so far and what was collected is a small amount of what was spilled,” Bolsonaro said in an interview with Record television.

He said he did not know if additional oil would impact his country’s coastline, but that “everything indicates that the currents went to the coast of Brazil.”

Oil slicks have been appearing for three months off the coast of northeast Brazil and fouling beaches along a 2,000 kilometer (1,250 mile) area of Brazil’s most celebrated shoreline.

Crews and volunteers have cleaned up tons of oil on the beaches.

Officials say it not yet possible to quantify the environmental and economic damage from the oil slicks.

The government on Friday named a Greek-flagged tanker as the prime suspect behind the oil slicks.

The ship Bouboulina took on oil in Venezuela and was headed for Singapore, it said.

The space agency Inpe said Friday there might still be oil at sea being pushed by currents and it could reach the states of Espiritu Santo and Rio de Janeiro in southeast Brazil.

Brazil President Undergoes Surgery For Hernia

File Photo: Brazilian president-elect Jair Bolsonaro gestures as he delivers a joint press conference with Brazilian President Michel Temer (out of frame) after a meeting in Brasilia on November 7, 2018.
EVARISTO SA / AFP

 

Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro underwent surgery Sunday to repair an abdominal hernia, his fourth operation since being stabbed in the stomach a year ago at a campaign rally, his doctors said.

The operation, performed at Sao Paulo’s Vila Nova Star hospital, lasted more than five hours, the medical center reported in a statement signed by his surgeon, Antonio Luiz Macedo.

“The procedure was a success,” the statement said, adding that the president was recovering and in stable condition.

Bolsonaro was stabbed September 6, 2018, at a campaign rally in the state of Minas Gerais by a 41-year-old man, who was found to be delusional and psychologically unfit for trial.

The assailant, Adelio Bispo de Oliveira, is being held in the psychiatric unit of a maximum-security prison.

Brazil Bans Burning For Two Months To Defuse Amazon Crisis

Aerial view of deforestation in the Menkragnoti Indigenous Territory in Altamira, Para state, Brazil, in the Amazon basin, on August 28, 2019. PHOTO: Joao LAET / AFP

 

Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro signed a decree Wednesday to ban burning throughout the country for two months, government sources cited in local media said, as the authorities scramble to defuse the Amazon fires which have triggered a global outcry.

The blazes that have engulfed parts of the world’s largest rainforest — which is crucial for maintaining a stable global climate — have also sparked a diplomatic spat between Brazil and Europe that threatens to torpedo a major trade deal.

The decree, which will be officially published on Thursday, prohibits any burning for the next 60 days, barring some exceptions in cases of approved agricultural and forestry practices, media reports said.

It comes as Bolsonaro’s renewed demand that French leader Emmanuel Macron withdraw “insults” against him cast doubt on whether Brazil would accept the G7’s offer of $20 million to help combat the fires.

Bolsonaro initially rejected the G7’s offer, saying on Tuesday that he would be willing to accept it only if Macron withdrew his “insults,” before appearing to change his mind to say Brazil would accept foreign aid on the condition that it controlled the money.

But later on Wednesday, the South American leader fired a fresh salvo.

“Only after he withdraws what he said… we can talk again,” Bolsonaro told reporters Wednesday, referring to Macron.

He also accused France and Germany of “buying” the Latin American country’s sovereignty with Amazon fire aid.

“It seems that $20 million is our price. Brazil doesn’t have a price of 20 million or 20 trillion — it’s the same thing for us,” he said.

Macron has accused Bolsonaro of lying to him about his commitments on climate change and vowed to block the EU-Mercosur trade deal involving Brazil that took decades to negotiate.

An aide to President Donald Trump said Wednesday the US was ready to assist with the Amazon crisis, but only if it involved the Brazilian government.

“We didn’t agree to a G7 initiative that failed to include consultations w/ @jairbolsonaro . The most constructive way to assist w/ Brazil’s ongoing efforts is in coordination w/ the Brazilian Gov,” National Security Council spokesman Garrett Marquis tweeted late Wednesday.

Bolsonaro’s latest remarks make him and his government appear “increasingly unhinged,” said Robert Muggah, from a Rio de Janeiro think tank, the Igarape Institute.

“There don’t appear to be any adults left in the room with the ability or inclination to restrain his worst impulses,” Muggah said.

No liars

On Monday, Macron rebuked the “extraordinarily rude” Bolsonaro after the Brazilian leader personally expressed approval for a supporter’s Facebook post implying that Brigitte Macron was not as attractive as his own wife, Michelle Bolsonaro.

The Brazilian leader has since removed the comment from social media to avoid misinterpretation, his spokesman Otavio Rego Barros told reporters Wednesday.

Vice President Hamilton Mourao — widely considered to be a moderate voice in Bolsonaro’s government — also weighed in publicly for the first time.

In an opinion piece published in the conservative Estado de S. Paulo newspaper, Mourao criticized an “international campaign” against Brazil and said the country “does not lie and nor does its president, its government and its institutions.”

Bolsonaro said Brazil would accept bilateral aid to fight the fires, saying yes to Chile’s offer of four aircraft. “We all love the Amazon, but the nine Amazon countries… have sovereignty” over it, Chile’s President Sebastian Pinera said.

The outcry over the fires has alarmed industries in Latin America’s largest economy. They fear potential boycotts of their products.

Global brands have threatened to suspend leather purchases from Brazil over the country’s environmental policies, according to a document sent by the Brazil Tanneries Industry Center to the government.

Fires are also ravaging neighboring Bolivia where President Evo Morales and his rival in upcoming elections have suspended campaigning to deal with the blazes.

Bolsonaro on Wednesday supported Peru and Colombia’s proposal for an emergency Amazon summit in September so regional countries could coordinate a strategy to protect the vast rainforest.

The latest official figures show 1,044 new fires were started Monday and Tuesday, taking the total this year to 83,329 — the highest since 2010 — even as military aircraft and troops help battle the blazes.

More than half of the fires are in the massive Amazon basin.

In the hard-hit northwestern state of Rondonia, thick smoke has choked the capital Porto Velho as fires blacken swaths of the rainforest.

But the defense ministry insists the fires are under control. It has published satellite data it says show a reduction in the number of blazes in the nine states spanning the Amazon.

AFP

Trump Praises Bolsonaro’s Efforts On Amazon Fires

Handout aerial picture released by Greenpeace showing fire raging in the forest in the municipality of Candeias do Jamari, close to Porto Velho in Rondonia State, in the Amazon basin in northwestern Brazil, on August 24, 2019.  Victor MORIYAMA / GREENPEACE / AFP

 

US President Donald Trump on Tuesday endorsed Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro’s response to the fires raging in the Amazon and pledged “full and complete” US support.

His comments on Twitter come against the backdrop of world alarm over the fires in a region vital to the global environment and a side spat between Bolsonaro and French President Emmanuel Macron.

Bolsonaro “is working very hard on the Amazon fires and in all respects doing a great job for the people of Brazil – Not easy,” Trump tweeted. “He and his country have the full and complete support of the USA!”

AFP

Amazon Fire: Bolsonaro Open To G7 Aid If Macron ‘Withdraws Insults’

France’s President Emmanuel Macron (L) and Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro attend a meeting on the digital economy at the G20 Summit in Osaka.  Jacques Witt / POOL / AFPbolso

 

Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro said Tuesday he was open to discussing G7 aid for fighting fires in the Amazon if his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron “withdraws insults” made against him. 

Bolsonaro’s remarks come amid an escalating war of words with Macron over the worst fires in years that have sparked a global outcry and threatened to torpedo a huge trade deal between the European Union and South American countries.

Hours earlier, a top Brazilian official had rejected the G7 countries’ offer of $20 million to combat the fires devastating the forest in Brazil and Bolivia, saying Macron should take care of “his home and his colonies.”

“Mr Macron must withdraw the insults he made against me,” Bolsonaro told reporters in the capital Brasilia.

“To talk or accept anything from France, with the best possible intentions, he has to withdraw these words, and from there we can talk,” Bolsonaro said.

Macron on Monday condemned “extraordinarily rude” comments made about his wife Brigitte by Bolsonaro a day earlier.

Bolsonaro hit back, accusing Macron of treating Brazil like “a colony or no-man’s land.”

The latest official figures show 1,659 new fires were started in Brazil between Sunday and Monday, taking the total this year to 82,285 — the highest since at least 2013 — even as military aircraft and troops help battle the blazes.

More than half of the fires are in the massive Amazon basin.

In the hard-hit northwestern state of Rondonia, thick smoke has choked the capital Porto Velho in recent days as fires blacken swaths of the rainforest.

Defense Minister Fernando Azevedo e Silva on Monday claimed that the fires were “under control.”

“It has been exaggerated a little that the situation was out of control — it wasn’t,” he said. “The situation isn’t simple but it is under control.”

Although about 60 percent of the Amazon is in Brazil, the vast forest also spreads over parts of eight other countries or territories, including the French overseas territory of Guiana on the continent’s northeast coast.

Bolsonaro — a climate-change skeptic — has faced criticism at home over his delayed response to the fires and thousands have protested in Brazil in recent days to denounce the destruction.

Bestselling Brazilian writer Paulo Coelho, meanwhile, took to the internet to apologize — in French — for Bolsonaro’s behavior.

“This is a rather sad video to ask forgiveness of my French friends for the crisis — I would even say the hysteria of Bolsonaro regarding France, the French president, the French president’s wife,” he said in a message posted on Twitter.

“As Amazonia burns, they have no argument except to insult, deny, say anything to avoid taking responsibility,” he added.

AFP

Macron Condemns ‘Extraordinarily Rude’ Bolsonaro Insults

France’s President Emmanuel Macron (L) and Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro attend a meeting on the digital economy at the G20 Summit in Osaka. Jacques Witt / POOL / AFP

 

French President Emmanuel Macron on Monday condemned “extraordinarily rude” comments made about his wife Brigitte by Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro.

“He has made some extraordinarily rude comments about my wife,” Macron told a press conference when asked to react to statements about him by the Brazilian government.

“What can I say? It’s sad. It’s sad for him firstly, and for Brazilians,” he added.

On Sunday, a Bolsonaro supporter posted a message on Facebook mocking the appearance of Brigitte Macron and comparing her unfavourably with Brazil’s first lady Michelle Bolsonaro.

“Now you understand why Macron is persecuting Bolsonaro?” he wrote next to an unflattering picture of Brigitte Macron, 65, who is 28 years older than Bolsonaro’s wife, Michelle.

Bolsonaro replied on Facebook: “Do not humiliate the guy, ha ha.”

“I think Brazilian women will probably be ashamed to read that from their president,” Macron said. “I think that Brazilians, who are a great people, will probably be ashamed to see this behaviour…

“And as I feel friendship and respect towards the Brazilian people, I hope that they will very soon have a president who behaves in the right way.”

AFP

Brazil Blames Amazon Fires On NGOs

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro gestures during the International Youth Day celebration at Planalto Palace in Brasilia on August 16, 2019.  EVARISTO SA / AFP

 

The head of INPE, the agency tasked with monitoring forest clearing, was sacked over the figures.

While it was not possible Wednesday to measure the size of the area affected by fires, thick smoke in recent days has blanketed several cities, including Sao Paulo, and caused a commercial flight to be diverted.

Forest fires tend to intensify during the dry season, which usually ends in late October or early November, as land is cleared to make way for crops or grazing.

But the WWF has blamed this year’s sharp increase in accelerating deforestation in the Amazon, which is seen as crucial to keeping climate change in check.

“Historically, in this region, the use of fire is directly linked to deforestation as it is one of the techniques for tree clearing,” WWF said in a statement.

Bolsonaro hit back Wednesday, saying “criminal action by those NGOs, to call attention against me, against the Brazilian government” following funding cuts may be the reason for the forest fires.

“This is the war that we are facing,” Bolsonaro told reporters.

“The fires were lit in strategic places. All the indications suggest they went there to film and start fires. That’s what I feel.”

 Deforestation under scrutiny 

Bolsonaro’s comments come as Brazil hosts a UN regional meeting on climate change in the northeastern city of Salvador ahead of December’s summit in Chile.

The 25th UN Conference on Climate Change (COP25) was originally planned for Brazil, but the country pulled out, citing impossible objectives.

Activists held a protest in the city where they denounced Bolsonaro’s latest accusation as “absurd”.

“The fires are the consequence of a policy of environmental devastation, of support for agribusiness, of increasing pastures,” Camila Veiga of the Brazilian Association of NGOs told AFP.

Speaking on the sidelines of the week-long workshop, Environment Minister Ricardo Salles defended the government’s efforts to prevent illegal deforestation.

“All the rules on illegal deforestation have been upheld, all strategies have continued to be enforced,” Salles said.

“Unfortunately both the states and the federal government suffer because of the economic crisis, budget cuts, which hinders… enforcement operations.”

The forest fires have fueled criticism of Bolsonaro’s anti-environment rhetoric, which activists blame for emboldening loggers, miners and farmers in the Amazon.

Salvador mayor Antonio Carlos Magalhaes told AFP that, if necessary, “political forces” in Brazil would work “to block any attempt at radical or extreme decisions” on the environment by Bolsonaro’s government.

“Our country is concerned about the environment, our country is concerned with the preservation of its natural heritage, our country does not want to regress on this agenda, it wants to move forward,” Magalhaes said.

Norway joined Germany on Thursday in halting Amazon protection subsidies, accusing Brazil of turning its back on the fight against deforestation.

Worsening relations between Brazil and Europe has worried about the powerful agriculture sector, which fears a backlash from its key markets.

AFP