Brazil’s COVID-19 deaths surpass Italy’s, daily toll hits record high

BRASILIA – Brazil experienced a record daily COVID-19 deaths on Friday, taking the toll on Italy’s planned protests over the weekend against the government of far-right President Jair Bolsonaro.

In an editorial on the front page of Folha de S. Paulo, the widely circulated daily newspaper said that only 100 days had passed since Bolsonaro described the virus as now “killing a Brazilian per minute” as “a little flu.”

“As you read this, another Brazilian died of the corona virus,” the newspaper said.

The Brazilian Ministry of Health reported late Thursday that confirmed cases in the country had risen 600,000, with 1,437 deaths within 24 hours.

With an official death toll of over 34,000, the pandemic in Brazil has killed more than anywhere else, except in the United States and the United Kingdom.

Bolsonaro’s efforts to minimize public health risks and lift state quarantines have encouraged critics, some of whom have accused him of using the crisis to undermine democratic institutions.

But many of those same critics have been divided over the safety and effectiveness of demonstrations against the government in the midst of a pandemic, especially after a small protest was overwhelmed last weekend by an overwhelming police show.

Bolsonaro supporters have held nearly weekly meetings urging the military to close Congress and the Supreme Court over their opposition to its agenda. But the former army captain has asked them to stay off the street this weekend to allow the police to focus on opposition protests.

On Friday, Bolsonaro called opposition protesters “terrorists” and encouraged public security forces to act quickly “if these offenders happen to cross the lines of the law.”

Representatives of the National Guard and Federal District met Friday to discuss security in Brasilia ahead of the weekend’s protests. A person familiar with the matter said it had not yet decided whether to deploy federal troops to the country’s capital.

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