In Brazil a genocide is taking place! - A letter from Frei Betto , a Dominican friar

I would like to share a letter sent to me by Sister Joanne Pundyk, snjm, a sister in our Holy Names community that has been working in Brazil for many decades.

Thanks so very much.

Blessings of peace and hope.

Sister Maria


A letter to friends abroad

Dear friends:

In Brazil a genocide is taking place! At the time of my writing, July 16, Covid-19, which emerged here in February this year, has already killed 76,000 people. There are already almost 2 million infected. By Sunday, July 19, we will reach 80,000 fatalities. It is possible that now, when you read this dramatic appeal, we’ve already reached 100 thousand.

When I remember that in the Vietnam War, which lasted 20 years, 58,000 lives of American soldiers were sacrificed, I have the scope of the seriousness of what is happening in my country. This horror causes outrage and revolt. And we all know that precautionary and restrictive measures, adopted in so many other countries, could have prevented such a death toll.

This genocide is not the result of the Bolsonaro government's indifference. It is intentional. Bolsonaro is pleased with the death of others. When he was a federal deputy, in a TV interview in 1999, he declared: “By voting you will not change anything in this country, nothing, absolutely nothing! It will only change, unfortunately, if one day we go to a civil war here, and do the work that the military regime did not do: kill some 30 thousand”.

By voting in favor of President Dilma's impeachment, he offered his vote in memory of the most notorious torturer in the Army, Colonel Brilhante Ustra.

Because he is so obsessed with death, one of his main government policies is to facilitate the arms and ammunition trade. Asked at the door of the presidential palace if he did not care for the victims of the pandemic, he replied: "I do not believe in these numbers" (3/27, 92 deaths); "We will all die one day" (3/29, 136 deaths); "So what? What do you want me to do?" (28/4, 5,017 deaths).

Why this necrophilic policy? From the beginning, he declared that the important thing was not to save lives, but the economy. Hence, his refusal to declare a lockdown, comply with WHO guidelines and import respirators and personal protective equipment. The Supreme Court had to delegate this responsibility to governors and mayors.

Bolsonaro did not even respect the authority of his own health ministers. Since February, Brazil has had two, both fired for refusing to adopt the same attitude as the president. Now, at the head of the ministry, is General Pazuello, who understands nothing about the health issue; he tried to hide the data on the evolution of the numbers of victims of the corona virus; employed 38 military personnel in key ministry functions, without the required qualifications; and canceled the daily interviews from which the population received guidance.

It would be exhaustive to list here how many measures to release resources to help victims and low-income families (more than 100 million Brazilians) have never been implemented.

The reasons for the criminal intent of the Bolsonaro government are evident. Letting the elderly die to save Social Security resources. Letting those with preexisting illnesses die to save resources from SUS, the national health system. Letting the poor die to save resources from Bolsa Família and other social programs for the 52.5 million Brazilians living in poverty and the 13.5 million who are in extreme poverty. (Federal government data).

Not satisfied with such lethal measures, the president has now vetoed, in the bill sanctioned 3/7, the part that required the use of masks in commercial establishments, religious temples and educational institutions. He also vetoed the imposition of fines for those who break the rules and the government's obligation to distribute masks to the poorest, main victims of Covid-19, and to prisoners (750 thousand). These vetoes, however, do not annul local laws that already establish the mandatory use of a mask.

On 7/8, Bolsonaro overturned excerpts from the Senate-approved law that required the government to provide drinking water and hygiene and cleaning materials, internet facilities and distribution of basic baskets, seeds and agricultural tools to indigenous villages. He also vetoed emergency funds for indigenous health, as well as facilitating access by indigenous and quilombolas* to emergency aid of 600 reais (100 euros or 120 dollars) for three months. He also vetoed the government's obligation to offer more hospital beds, ventilators and blood oxygenation machines to indigenous and quilombola peoples.

Indigenous and quilombolas have been decimated by the growing socio-environmental devastation, especially in the Amazon.

Please spread the word about this crime against humanity as much as possible. The denunciations of what happens in Brazil must reach the media in your country, the digital networks, the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, and the International Court of The Hague, as well as the banks and companies that shelter such investors, coveted by the Bolsonaro government.

Long before The Economist newspaper did it on digital networks, I treated the president as “Bolso Nero” - while Rome burns, he plays the lyre and advertises chloroquine, a drug with no scientific efficacy against the new corona virus. However, its manufacturers are political allies of the president ...

I thank you for your sympathetic interest in spreading this letter. Only pressure from abroad will be able to stop the genocide that is plaguing our beloved and wonderful Brazil.


Frei Betto

Frei Betto is a Dominican friar and writer, advisor to FAO and social movements.

*Quilombolas - Africans enslaved in Brazil and their descendants, who escaped from the plantations and formed communities where they could live as free people. By law, they have the right to the land on which they live. They live in remote areas and try to maintain connections with their traditions. (translator’s note)