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Political discourse, denialism and leadership failure in Brazil’s response to COVID-19

Fonseca, Elize Massard da, Nattrass, Nicoli, Lazaro, Lira Luz Benites and Bastos, Francisco Inácio (2021) Political discourse, denialism and leadership failure in Brazil’s response to COVID-19. Global Public Health, 16 (8-9). 1251 - 1266. ISSN 1744-1692

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Identification Number: 10.1080/17441692.2021.1945123


The COVID-19 pandemic posed challenges for healthcare systems and political leaders across the globe. In this case study of Brazil, we argue that leadership failings at the highest level contributed to Brazil’s relatively high and escalating death rates during 2020. Drawing on an analysis of a large amount of textual documentation drawn from media reports, we emphasise the role and consequences of President Jair Bolsonaro’s political discourse and prioritisation of the economy. We focus on the first wave that swept across the globe between January and late June of 2020, arguing that Bolsonaro underplayed the seriousness of the epidemic, leveraged misinformation as a political strategy, promoted pseudoscience, and undermined the Ministry of Health. He also confronted subnational governments for adopting lockdown measures–a move that enabled him to blame regional governors for the short-term economic costs of COVID-19 related restrictions. We suggest that his denialist approach to climate change paved the way for his subsequent denialism of the seriousness of COVID-19 and for his undermining of social distancing, mask-wearing and other preventative responses supported by science. These sobering findings highlight the role that national leaders can play in undermining scientific approaches to both public health and the environment.

Item Type: Article
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Additional Information: © 2021 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.
Divisions: IGA: Latin America and Caribbean Centre
Subjects: R Medicine > RA Public aspects of medicine > RA0421 Public health. Hygiene. Preventive Medicine
H Social Sciences > HV Social pathology. Social and public welfare. Criminology
J Political Science > JL Political institutions (America except United States)
Date Deposited: 06 Jul 2021 11:48
Last Modified: 19 Jul 2024 19:39

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