Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro arrives for the opening ceremony of the forum “Control in the fight against corruption” on December 9, 2020 at the Planalto Palace in Brasilia. Andre Borges / Getty Images

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has “tried to sabotage efforts to slow the spread of Covid-19 in Brazil and take other measures that undermine human rights,” according to a report by Human Rights Watch.

In its World Report 2021 released on Wednesday, the NGO said Bolsonaro had repeatedly downplayed the coronavirus by calling it a “minor flu” and spreading misleading information about the pandemic.

Bolsonaro “refused to take any action to protect himself and the people around him; disseminated misleading information; and tried to prevent states from imposing social distancing rules. His government tried to withhold Covid-19 data from the public. He fired his health minister for defending the recommendations of the World Health Organization and the substitute health minister stepped down against the president’s endorsement of an unproven drug to treat Covid-19, ”the report said.

Anna Livia Arida, Brazil’s assistant director at Human Rights Watch, recognized the role of other government institutions such as the Brazilian Supreme Court and Congress in “blocking many, if not all, of Bolsonaro’s anti-rights policies.”

“The Supreme Court ruled against attempts by the Bolsonaro government to deprive states of the authority to restrict people’s movements in order to curb the spread of Covid-19, effectively suspend access to the right to information and withhold Covid-19 data from the public. ” the report said.

“Congress passed a law compelling the government to provide emergency supplies to the indigenous population and the Supreme Court ordered the Bolsonaro government to develop a plan to combat the spread of Covid-19 in indigenous areas,” he continued.

Government response: According to CNN Brasil, the country’s Ministry of Women, Family and Human Rights issued a statement on Wednesday arguing that the report “ignores government measures to protect human rights during the pandemic.”

Numerous projects to help children, young people, women and the elderly were mentioned in the declaration. These are “a form of government aid for the socio-economic developments in the pandemic,” reported CNN Brasil.

CNN has approached Bolsonaro’s office for comment.

Brazil has the third highest number of Covid-19 cases in the world after the US and India. As of Wednesday, Brazil has reported 8,256,536 Covid-19 cases and 205,964 virus-related deaths.

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