If you believe that the Covid-19 crisis in the United States is a catastrophe under the leadership of Donald Trump, Brazilians can tell you an even scarier story.
Far-right president Jair Bolsonaro has made a name for himself since his campaign for the seat as a radically religious, homophobic, and misogynist man, as well as a supporter of climate change denial, often appealing to his ideas of privatizing the Amazon in favor of big timber industries.
It is not surprising, therefore, that his response to the Coronavirus pandemic — which has forced several countries worldwide to close their economies to protect their citizens — has been to tell the Brazilians that “God is Brazilian” and, therefore, they are not at risk of contagion.
In much the same way as the U.S. president, Bolsonaro has appealed to his strong base of evangelical supporters to argue for his measures, promoting “a day of fasting by Brazilians so that Brazil can free itself from this evil as soon as possible.”
However, no preventive or control measures have been imposed in the rest of the country.
No @AJUpFront da TV Al Jazeera pude passar a minha visão sobre como o Brasil está lidando com a crise do #coronavirus e também sobre as consequências das falas e atitudes irresponsáveis do PR. A crise é grave, por isso é preciso de seriedade e rapidez ao lidar com tudo isso. pic.twitter.com/XgM3UATvRG
— Tabata Amaral (@tabataamaralsp) April 5, 2020
As of Friday, the country had 359 deaths and 9,056 confirmed cases of coronavirus.
This is why responsibility and leadership has fallen on local legislators and governors, who have resorted to promoting social distancing measures to prevent the spread of the virus.
Among them is young Congresswoman Tabata Amaral, better known as the “Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of Brazil.”
At just 24 years old, the federal deputy for the Democratic Labor Party (PDT) representing the state of São Paulo, has campaigned on social networks to impose social isolation on communities, and introduced a project to prohibit companies from suspending health care to their employees during the pandemic.
Similarly, following guidelines adopted by the president of El Salvador, Amaral has demanded that the Bolsonaro government prohibit the suspension of water and electricity supplies to homes that fail to pay their bills.
Amaral has accused Bolsonaro “of lying and using social media to spread fake news,” Al Jazeera reported.
“By doing those things, and by telling people to go to their streets, and actually going himself to greet the crowds, which he did last weekend, he’s putting lives in danger,” Amaral said.
“I’m very ashamed by all of the things he is doing, especially in moments of crisis, we need a leader who tells people everything will be all right,” she added.
Born and raised in Vila Missionária, a poor neighborhood in southern São Paulo, Amaral attended local public schools, and thanks to her brilliant performance in mathematics she was able to get a scholarship to study at a private school that represented her at the international Olympics in chemistry, astronomy, and astrophysics.
After high school, she received full scholarships to several Ivy League universities in the United States, opting for Harvard where she graduated magna cum laude with the highest honors in government and astrophysics.
Back home, she turned her work to educational activism, collaborating with the foundation of organizations such as the Education Map Movement and Acredito (“I Believe”), and campaigning for educational reforms in Brazil’s poorest municipalities.
During the 2018 general elections, her mission shifted to politics, basing her congressional campaign on an educational program and receiving surprising support, which led her to become a state representative for São Paulo from the Democratic Labor Party (PDT).