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This past week, the New York Times NYT gave President of Brazil Jair Bolsonaro the dubious honor of being the sole major world leader continuing to question the merits of lockdown measures to fight the pandemic.” Such an interpretation is actually generous: beyond questioning the merits, he’s actively combated them, encouraging people to go outdoors and keep the economy running, through a million-dollar “#BrazilCannotStop/#BrazilNaoPodeParar” campaign launched by his son, and ultimately banned in Brazillian federal court
#MilanWillNotStop was popular through February… until Italy surpassed China in deaths. Scientists around the world have agreed that staying at home is the only chance we have at stopping the spread of COVID-19; which is why from Italy to Colombia quarantines have been put in place, with 9 out of 10 people globally having their motion restricted in some fashion. 
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In general, politicians publicly disagreeing with the science have appeared to have motives connected to their economic agendas — whether Trump’s February 24th Tweet, “The Coronavirus is very much under control in the USA. … Stock Market starting to look very good to me!” implying he read the chart upside down:
to the Lt. Governor of Texas, Dan Patrick implying that the grandparents should happily perish if it saves the economy, noting on Fox News: “No one reached out to me and said, ‘As a senior citizen, are you willing to take a chance on your survival in exchange for keeping the America that all America loves for your children and grandchildren?’” But if they had? “If that is the exchange, I’m all in.” 
The Fox anchor responded with a question, “So you’re basically saying that this disease could take your life but that’s not the scariest thing to you, there’s something that could be worse than dying?” That elicited a one-word answer from Patrick: “Yeah.”
Bolsonaro has placed this tradeoff in equal stark terms: “I’m sorry, some people will die, they will die, that’s life,” Bolsonaro said in a recent television interview. “You can’t stop a car factory because of traffic deaths.”
Luckily for Brazil’s citizens, local governments have stepped in where the president has failed to show leadership. Twenty-four out of 27 of Brazil’s governors have implemented restrictions, either ignoring, or outright critiquing Bolsonaro’s stance in the process:  Governor João Doria of São Paulo’s — the country’s economic engine and most populous state with 44 million residents — made his stance clear in maintaining strict social isolation guidelines. “Do not follow the guidance of the president.” Even Bolsonaro’s health minister, Luiz Mandetta, encouraged citizens to engage in “the maximum degree of social isolation.”
This is not the first time Bolsonaro has made headlines for ignoring science; he has been a passionate critic of climate change science, and notably refuses to acknowledge that the destruction of the Amazon rainforest could have serious global impact, to the consternation of his global peers particularly concerned with the 2019 wave of fires across the Amazon.  
Bolsonaro says that the Amazon’s 23 million people want development like hydro-electic dams, using his signature “job creation” as a plan to reduce poverty and somehow “combat rising deforestation” — and he promises to cut environmental safety red tape to do so. This is despite the calls by environmentalists and indigenous community members against such development projects. Not only does development threaten the future viability of the Amazon, it ruins lives in real time as dam construction floods village homes and disrupts longstanding ways of life. 
Without government support, local citizens continue to take action in protecting the Amazon against commercial development — which has become particularly important during the pandemic. Last year, thousands of indigenous people descended on Brazil’s capital “to protest against a widespread assault on indigenous rights and territories by the government of the far-right president, Jair Bolsonaro.” Sofia Mendonça, a public health expert who has worked with indigenous tribes in the Amazon for four decades, emphasizes that respiratory diseases have long been a leading cause of death among Brazil’s 850,000 indigenous people. Layered with vulnerability, indigenous Amazon groups implore outsiders from interrupting their lives and potentially bringing coronavirus, and are fearful of spread from illegal mining and logging operations, missionaries, reporters, and even healthcare providers
Similarly, the Brazilian public is taking strong actions on its own. In contrast with Bolsonaro’s preferred slogan, Brazillians across all social strata have taken #FiqueEmCasa/#StayAtHome seriously, and organized extensive aid efforts throughout the country. In cities like São Paulo and Rio, self-isolating Brazilians protest Bolsonaro each night with the deafening banging of pots and pans out their windows. For many, staying quiet isn’t an option.
William “Ninho” de Paula, teacher and leader in the Vidigal community of Rio De Janeiro, has been part of organizing the distribution of over 1,000 packages of basic goods like rice, beans, powdered milk and soap to favela families in need, and is seeking donations to support an additional 500 baskets. He noted, “Social isolation policies will produce different impacts on the various social classes in Brazil. The price for the poor and also small business entrepreneurs will be high. These people get their revenues from street businesses, most informal. Most of these people have kids and they also live together with the old ones in very fragile conditions. At the moment it is important to create mechanisms between volunteers that can help provide food and the many families in need.” 
Fernanda de Arruda Camargo, co-founder of Wright Capital in São Paulo, noted that private sector leaders have been working round the clock to try and supplement Brazil’s inadequate health infrastructure, securing ventilators and masks among other equipment, and also providing donations to support the food and health kits to the people in favelas and other vulnerable communities. She noted, “Despite the president’s speeches, Brazilians are organizing themselves to help each other and donating on a massive scale, with close to 1 Billion reales of private donations tracked so far. Groups of social investors and foundations like GIFE are helping coordinate responses in areas like health, food, education and small business support. Cufa and Gerando Falcões, NGOs that cover many favelas around the country, are moving quickly.  And crowdfunding has taken off with platforms such as BSocial.” She added,   We are a multi-family office that only manages wealth for families that care about social transformation, and that means beyond jobs today, we are also concerned with the medium and long-term welfare of Brazil.”
Bolsonaro, apparently, doesn’t want the contributions of women like Fernanda, noting in a TV interview: “Let’s confront this like men, not little boys… we will all die someday.” Similarly he isn’t interested in taking lessons from Indigenous people on how to take care of the environment, who he has yet to acknowledge as fully human: “The Indians are evolving, more and more they are human being like us” he declared earlier this year. 
Bolsonaro is scientifically accurate in one thing: we will all die someday. Someday might be accelerated because when the Amazon is destroyed, we won’t have clean air left to breathe. Or it might be because without social distancing in Brazil, that COVID-19 will take far more lives than is necessary. The rhetoric of leaders who are elected to serve their citizens — yet advocate for the prioritization of jobs over human lives — comes with deep irony that is not lost upon the people. 
Thanks to Andre Leonardo Rocha Dos Santos and Jasmine Rashid for their contributions to this piece. Full disclosures related to my work here. This post does not constitute investment, tax, or legal advice, and the author is not responsible for any actions taken based on the information provided herein.