Talk to Al Jazeera

Luiz Henrique Mandetta: ‘Bolsonaro follows Trump’ on coronavirus

Brazil’s former health minister discusses his clash with President Jair Bolsonaro over the country’s COVID-19 response.

On February 26, Brazil became the first country in South America to confirm a COVID-19 infection.

And as the number of cases increased over the subsequent weeks and months, its president, Jair Bolsonaro, refused to take any drastic measures. He fought with state leaders who imposed lockdowns and mandated social distancing rules – calling their actions “economically ruinous”.

Bolsonaro still refuses to acknowledge the seriousness of the global pandemic. He has called the virus nothing more than a “little flu”. His priority has been to keep the economy going at any cost.

But now, Brazil has recorded more than 1.2 million infections – and has the world’s second-highest death toll. And as Bolsonaro pushes for people to go back to work, two of his health ministers have walked away.

Nelson Teich had taken office on April 17, but left the job just four weeks later. Teich had replaced Luiz Henrique Mandetta, whom Bolsanaro had dismissed.

The president called it “a consensual divorce”, but Mandetta’s sacking caused anger across Brazil – with many banging pots and pans from their windows.

So, how will President Bolsanaro’s handling of this pandemic affect the more than 200 million Brazilians? And are his decisions influenced by his friendship with US President Donald Trump?

We put those questions to one of the men who played a central role during this crisis – Brazil’s former health minister, Luiz Henrique Mandetta.