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Brazil Ranks Dead Last In Global COVID Performance Report — No One's Surprised

Eraldo Peres
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro (left) confers with Brazilian Army Commander Gen. Edson Leal Pujol in 2019.

Brazil's calamitous COVID news gets uglier, politically and medically, with a bottom ranking for pandemic handling and a report that critics are being prosecuted.

In this hemisphere, only Brazil’s COVID-19 tragedy rivals the U.S.’s — and Brazil’s COVID scene has gotten even uglier this week, politically as well as medically, with new reports that the country's pandemic management is the world's worst and that its president is seeking to jail his policy critics.

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro dismisses COVID-19 as “just a little flu” while actively undermining social distancing and mask-wearing. Critics say that’s partly why Brazil has reported the world’s second-highest number of COVID deaths and the third-highest tally of cases.

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Now, a new report by the Lowy Institute in Australia — called the COVID Performance Index — confirms just how poorly Brazil has confronted the pandemic. Of 100 countries surveyed, Brazil ranks dead last.

Brazil does have company in this hemisphere. Seven of the bottom 10 countries in the Lowy index are in the Americas, including the U.S. as well as Mexico, Colombia, Bolivia, Panama and Chile.

Still, recent COVID news makes Brazil’s notorious performance even more troubling. Scientists say a new and fast-spreading COVID variant found in the Amazon city of Manaus — a strain called P.1. — is arguably the world’s most dangerous.

Brazil is also struggling to launch a COVID vaccination program. In December, the country's largest newspaper, Folha de São Paulo, called Bolsonaro's widely criticized efforts in that regard (or lack of them) "homicidal negligence." He insists he is successfully negotiating vaccine purchases from countries like China.

Meanwhile, the international rights group Human Rights Watch reports the right-wing Bolsonaro is using an archaic national security law — left over from the country's two-decade-long military dictatorship that ended in 1985 — to prosecute Brazilians who criticize his pandemic policies.

The HRW alert says Bolsonaro's federal police and military command are also targeting Brazilian prosecutors and judges, some of whom are investigating alleged pandemic wrongdoing by government officials.

Earlier this week, for example, federal prosecutors confirmed Bolsonaro's Health Minister, Eduardo Pazuello, is under investigation for alleged pandemic negligence involving deadly oxygen-tank shortages in Manaus.