Federal vs State Authority: April 2020

The political system in Brazil is a Federal-State administration, meaning each state is autonomous but functions under the general rule of the federal body. Each state has a governor and a mayor of the main city but ultimately falls under the federal jurisdiction. 


So when an international crisis occurs, and the different states of Brazil require different forms of action, there is a conflict between the individual needs of states and the generalized federal rules. 


Rio de Janeiro is one of 27 federative states in Brazil and has over 11 million people living there. The city of Rio de Janeiro has over 6 million inhabitants. Within the city, there are more than 600 favelas, and around 1.2 million people make up the favela community. It’s a lot of numbers.

Formiga Favela, Rio de Janeiro


But more importantly, it’s a lot of people. The inhabitants of favelas live in close proximity to one another, in overcrowded makeshift houses, with little sanitation and low job opportunities. As such, when COVID-19 hit the Brazilian shores, it was vital a robust federal response protect the communities most vulnerably assembled to face a pandemic. 


This response never came. Jair Bolsonaro was convinced the country must remain open and the economy functioning in order to protect the fiscal health of the nation. But the medical health was deteriorating at a terrifying rate. 


Brazil has now passed 10,000 deaths and has the second-largest increase in daily deaths in the world, following the USA. The mayor of Rio de Janeiro tried to encourage a city-wide lockdown, which was refused by the federal body. The Health Minister was fired after arguing the necessity of social distancing with Bolsonaro. The Justice Minister was fired on the same topic. 


The body politic is made from the skeleton of the overarching government. It is brought to life by the people who make up every cell, organ, and muscle that keeps the body moving. Brazil has been struck by a severe case of osteoporosis. The governing skeleton is too brittle, too inflexible, too fragile, even, to withstand the needs of the rest of the body. As such, the body will wither and die. The communities who are most neglected by the government; those in the favelas; the indigenous communities; those who aren’t seen to contribute to the STEM development of the nation, are being amputated. The individual states are not greater than the sum of the whole and are suffering from a wholesale lack of support. We cannot continue to watch as Bolsonaro Jet Skis to BBQs and ignores the people in his body politic. He may claim immunity against Covid-19 as a former athlete. But his country is running on borrowed time. 

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