Tom Phillips and Caio Barretto Briso in Rio de Janeiro
Fri 27 Mar 2020 05.35 EDT
Top Brazilian politicians from across the political spectrum have warned that Jair Bolsonaro is putting thousands of lives at risk with what they called his reckless, paranoid, anti-scientific and belligerent response to the coronavirus.
In a series of scathing interviews – conducted as 26 of Brazil’s 27 state governors convened an emergency meeting to discuss Bolsonaro’s behaviour – regional chiefs told the Guardian they feared the far-right leader was sowing confusion over the need for quarantine and social distancing measures, and wasting precious time setting political bonfires to energize his radical base.
Bolsonaro sparked fury on Tuesday with an extraordinary address to the nation in which he rubbished the quarantine measures and travel restrictions being implemented by many state governors and urged Brazilians to return to work and schools – in contradiction of his own health ministry’s counsel.
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“It’s appalling. You cannot govern a country like this,” added Caiado, who this week severed ties with Bolsonaro. “At a moment like this he should have the humility to leave things to those who understand them.”