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Brazil's Governors Defy Bolsonaro Over Pandemic

President called for easing measures against coronavirus in address to nation
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Mar 26, 2020 5:48 PM CDT

(Newser) – Brazil's governors are defying President Jair Bolsonaro over his call to reopen schools and businesses, dismissing his argument that the "cure" of widespread shutdowns to contain the spread of the new coronavirus is worse than the disease. Bolsonaro contends that the clampdown already ordered by many governors will deeply wound the already beleaguered economy and spark social unrest, the AP reports. In a nationally televised address Tuesday night, he urged governors to limit isolation to high-risk people and lift the strict anti-virus measures they have imposed in their regions. "What needs to be done? Put the people to work. Preserve the elderly, preserve those who have health problems. But nothing more than that," said Bolsonaro, who in the past has sparked anger by calling the virus a "little flu."

The governors protested on Wednesday that his instructions run counter to health experts' recommendations and endanger Latin America’s largest population. They said they would continue with their strict measures and, in a joint letter, nearly all of them begged the federal government to join forces with states. The rebellion even included traditional allies of Brazil's president. In a videoconference with Bolsonaro and governors from the southeast region, Sao Paulo Gov. João Doria threatened to sue the federal government if it tried to interfere with his efforts to combat the virus, according to video of their private meeting. The governors weren't the only defiant ones. Virus plans challenged by Bolsonaro were upheld by the Supreme Court. The heads of both congressional houses criticized his televised speech. Companies donated supplies to state anti-virus efforts. As of Thursday, Brazil had 2,915 confirmed cases and 77 deaths related to the outbreak.

(Read more coronavirus stories.)

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