SAO PAULO – The Brazilian Press Association (ABI, in Portuguese) announced on Tuesday that it will file a lawsuit before the Supreme Court against President Jair Bolsonaro, whom it accuses of “endangering” the journalists who attended the announcement of his positive COVID-19 test result.
“Despite knowing he was infected with COVID-19, President Jair Bolsonaro continues to act in a criminal manner and endanger the lives of others,” ABI President Paulo Jeronimo de Sousa said in a statement.
De Sousa said the president “broke the isolation recommended by the doctors” and “received journalists from media he considers to be supportive” of his policies to “personally inform them” that he is infected with the virus.
The 65-year-old head of state, one of the world’s leaders most skeptical about the seriousness of the disease, appeared with a simple white mask and without observing any social distance from the reporters, who placed their microphones close to his covered mouth during the appearance.
Towards the end of his speech, Bolsonaro took a few steps back from the journalists and took off his mask to say some last words.
According to the ABI, the president violated Article 131 of the Brazilian criminal code, which includes transmitting to others a serious disease of which he or she is infected, or any act that may cause contagion, under penalty of one to four years in prison as well as a fine.
ABI considered that the ruler also violated Article 132 by exposing the life or health of others to direct and imminent danger.
“It is not possible for the country to watch without reacting to successive behaviors that go beyond irresponsibility and create clear offenses against public health,” added De Sousa.
The right-wing leader, who has underestimated the seriousness of the pandemic since the beginning of the health crisis and has on many occasions contradicted health authority recommendations, confirmed on Tuesday that he is infected after showing some symptoms, such as a fever of 38 degrees Celsius and muscular pain.
However, he said he is “perfectly fine” and reported that he is being treated with chloroquine, an anti-malarial whose effectiveness against COVID-19 is not scientifically proven, but which he defends as a safe remedy against the disease.
During the crisis, the president said COVID-19 was “a little flu” and attended demonstrations on several occasions throughout Brasilia, saying that his duty is to “be with the people.”
Brazil is the Latin American epicenter of the pandemic and the second most affected country by the coronavirus, after the United States, with 1.66 million cases and nearly 67,000 deaths, with 1,254 deaths in the past day.