Brazilians have been tricked by the media over a “little flu,” according to president Jair Bolsonaro. Families should still go out to eat despite coronavirus fears, says Mexico’s president Andres Manuél Lopez Obrador. And Nicaragua’s leader Daniel Ortega has all but disappeared, while political marches and rallies continue.
As global leaders race to contain the brutal threat of a growing pandemic, a triumvirate of denial has emerged in Latin America, with the leaders of Brazil, Mexico and Nicaragua downplaying the danger of a looming outbreak.
In the beginning, Obrador dismissed the threat posed by the novel coronavirus and “this idea that you can’t hug,” telling reporters on March 4, “You have to hug. Nothing happens.” Ten days later, he posted a video of himself surrounded by supporters, hugging them and kissing a child. Two days after that, he held up two amulets and told reporters they would protect him from the virus.
As confirmed cases have surged in recent days, AMLO, as the president is often called, has shown more concern, encouraging people to stay home. He said his cabinet will be working on ways to help vulnerable populations, providing relief to small businesses and banning gatherings of 100 people or more.
But as recently as Sunday, he posted a video encouraging people to continue to go out to eat, urging Mexicans to limit any damage to the economy. “We do nothing good and we don’t help if we’re paralyzed, if we act in an exaggerated way,” he said in the video. “Let’s continue living life normally.”