Even former allies are refusing to obey the Brazilian presidents calls for people to go back to work
Brazils president Jair Bolsonaro is facing a growing backlash over his handling of the coronavirus crisis, with the state governors responsible for more than 200 million of the countrys 210 million people refusing to follow his commands over the pandemic.
Bolsonaro has repeatedly played down the dangers of Covid-19 and last week urged Brazilians to get back to work in defiance of advice from the World Health Organization and his own health ministry.
But his exhortations have been largely ignored by politicians and the general public.
Just three of Brazils 27 states, home to 5.7 million people, have relaxed social isolation measures as coronavirus cases continue to rise Brazil has 5,717 confirmed cases and 201 deaths. A study showed almost 60% of Brazilians are staying at home.
Joo Doria, the governor of Brazils most populous and economically important state, So Paulo, has maintained a strict quarantine and this week openly defied Bolsonaro, telling its 44 million citizens: Do not follow the guidance of the president.
Wilson Witzel, Rio de Janeiro states rightwing governor, has also refused to back away from strict social isolation measures.
So far Ive been asking, now I am giving an order: dont leave your home, Witzel told his states 17 million residents on Monday as he extended Rios shut down for another fortnight.
Witzel, a one-time Bolsonaro ally, went on to suggest the presidents behaviour could land him a trial at the International Criminal Court in the Hague.
Only the rightwing governors of the Amazon states of Rondnia and Roraima, both Bolsonaro allies, have followed the presidents lead by relaxing restrictions on shops and businesses. In Roraimas capital Boa Vista and Rondnias capital Porto Velho many but not all – shops are open and there are people on the streets. In Mato Grosso shops have also partially re-opened.
Ciro Gomes, a prominent leftwing politician from north-eastern Brazil, told the Guardian that in order to save thousands of lives, the country now needed and was starting to witness an extensive campaign of civil disobedience initiated by governors, mayors, the overwhelming majority of religious leaders and the media.
Gomes admitted the loss of many lives was now inevitable but such a mutiny against Bolsonaro could help lessen the scale of the tragedy and represented an act of protection for the Brazilian people.
Bolsonaro has described coronavirus as a little flu and claimed his athletic background would protect him from it. You have to face it like a soldier on the battlefield, he told Rede TV on Monday. The previous day he told reporters: Well all die one day.
The president has argued the damage caused by shutting down Brazils economy will be worse than that caused by the virus, and has also suggested state governors were inflating the numbers of coronavirus victims to justify restrictive lockdown measures.
But as well as facing a rebellion from regional chiefs, Bolsonaro now also appears increasingly isolated from his own cabinet.
At a press conference with other ministers on Monday, Bolsonaros health minister Luiz Mandetta called on people to follow state governments and maintain the the maximum degree of social isolation a day after the president mingled with people on the streets of Braslia and said he was considering a decree to let them go back to work.
On Tuesday the Folha de SoPaulo newspaper reported that justice minister Srgio Moro, finance minister Paulo Guedes, Mandetta and military officers in the government had formed a block opposing the presidents stance.
Bolsonaro has put himself into self-isolation, said Jos lvaro Moiss, a professor of political science at the University of So Paulo.
Additional reporting by Tom Phillips in Rio de Janeiro