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South Florida Brazilians Disappointed By Bolsonaro COVID Infection – And By Bolsonaro

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro confirming to the media in Brasilia on Tuesday that he tested positive for COVID-19.

After months of dismissing the COVID-19 pandemic as a “hoax,” Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has tested positivefor…the novel coronavirus. At the same time, Bolsonaro’s behavior leading up to Tuesday's news has cost him popularity even in perhaps his most loyal outpost: South Florida.

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When Bolsonaro won the Brazilian presidency two years ago, expat Erika Faria voted for him with all the enthusiasm of a samba parade. So did some 80 percent of Brazilian expats in South Florida.

But since then Faria, a former Portuguese-language radio host who lives in Hollywood, says the right-wing Bolsonaro has disappointed her on issues like corruption, the Amazon rainforest — and especially when it comes to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Critics say Bolsonaro’s contempt for wearing masks and social distancing is one reason Brazil has the world’s second-highest number of cases and deaths, behind the U.S. So when he confirmed he’s infected with COVID-19, Faria said he’d already "totally" lost her support.

“We weren’t surprised at all," Faria says of Brazilian expats here. "Everybody was waiting for Bolsonaro to test positive. He’s the president, and he wasn’t really caring about the coronavirus, the COVID.

"So," she asks, exasperated, "what happened to this guy that we elected?”

Brazilians here are also hoping Bolsonaro’s positive test will cause Brazilians in Brazil to start taking the pandemic more seriously.

Rio de Janeiro native Ronald Wieselberg is an engineer in Miami Beach.

“He definitely downplayed the severity and the way that the virus spreads," says Wieselberg, a Rio de Janeiro native, who also works as a online payments company executive.

"He was mingling with crowds everywhere. But now that Bolsonaro has been proved wrong, hopefully people will change their behavior.”

Wieselberg warned, however, that he doesn’t think Bolsonaro’s "hard-core supporters in Brazil will change their pandemic behavior." Just as, he said, "President Trump and so many Americans haven’t yet changed theirs."

Tim Padgett is the Americas Editor for WLRN, covering Latin America, the Caribbean and their key relationship with South Florida. Contact Tim at tpadgett@wlrnnews.org
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