Like President Jair Bolsonaro, other leaders of the extreme right around the world have been wrong to deal with the coronavirus epidemic. While some sin by underestimating the power of the virus, others are accused of taking advantage of the moment to expand their powers. On the night of Tuesday 24, the Brazilian head of state rebuked the governors who adopted restrictive measures, attacked the press for causing “hysteria” and classified and classified the disease again as “cold”.
The presidents of the United States, Donald Trump, and Turkey, Recep Tayip Erdogan, have been accused of not treating the pandemic with due attention, as has Bolsonaro. In the US, the Republican was criticized for his delay in taking major action against the crisis and is now bombarded for considering the economic impact of the country's closure more damaging than the coronavirus epidemic. Meanwhile, part of the Turkish population disapproves of the decision of its authoritarian leader to keep activities running smoothly in the country's big cities.
Both in the case of Bolsonaro and Trump, however, federal health officials who are at the forefront of fighting the epidemic have taken consistent measures and in line with the recommendations of the World Health Organization (WHO). Incoherence and misunderstanding have been expressed by them in a loud voice and contradicted the attitudes of governors of both countries.
The heads of state of Hungary and Bulgaria have become the target of criticism from human rights organizations for their responses to Covid-19. The Hungarian Parliament is currently discussing a bill that would extend the powers of far-right Prime Minister Viktor Orban during the crisis. A similar measure was passed in Bulgaria, but some of its articles were repealed by parliamentarians for fear that they could damage the economy and hurt freedom of expression in the country.
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The Philippines is also experiencing a similar scenario. Considered authoritarian by a large part of the international community, President Rodrigo Duterte was benefited by Congress with emergency powers to act more actively in the fight against the coronavirus. But the high possibility that the head of state may abuse the measure to make other decisions already frightens legal experts.
Understand how other ultra-right leaders have coordinated efforts to contain the Covid-19 pandemic.
U.S. President Donald Trump: More Concern About Recession Than Coronavirus Victims Brendan Smialowski / AFP
American President Donald Trump has struggled to engage the first gear in the fight against the new coronavirus. While Asia was testing populations and isolating cities, he insisted that in the United States the problem was "under control". Only seven weeks after the first case of contamination was registered in Seattle, on the west coast, the Republican woke up to the urgent need for action at the federal level. The cost of the delay was high in this race for re-election, the disapproval of his government rose two points and the voting intentions on his behalf were below 45%. Only 37% of Americans trust what he says about the pandemic, according to recent surveys.
When the White House enacted a national emergency on Friday, the governors of thirty of the fifty American states had already taken the initiative. Some states, like California and New York, have quarantined.
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On Tuesday 24, Trump defended his position to relax the isolation imposed in various parts of the country as a means of controlling the coronavirus and went so far as to say that these restrictive measures could "destroy" the country. The Republican also insisted that all activities should resume normally until Easter, on April 12. In its equation, certainly, the economic crisis is already underway, which could damage its electoral ambition. In a questionable statement from a wide range of viewpoints, he ensured that a "major recession" could leave more victims than the new coronavirus in his country. As a reaction, criticism poured in not only from the Democratic opposition, but also from the press, the American medical community and Republican Party segments.
This Wednesday, 25, Congress announced a preliminary agreement on the $ 2 trillion economic stimulus package to avoid the recession and guarantee the living conditions of workers threatened by unemployment. The package provides direct financial aid to Americans affected by the crisis, grants subsidies to small businesses and hundreds of billions of dollars in loans to large companies, including airlines, in addition to expanding unemployment insurance. If he sanctions the bill, Trump may even redeem himself and see an improvement in popular approval for his response to the pandemic, which has already left 62,086 infected and 869 deaths in the country.
Turkey's President Recep Erdoga: no mandatory quarantine in big cities – 02/12/2020 Stringer / Reuters
Public health experts have expressed concern about the advancement of Covid-19 in Turkey – there are already 1,872 cases and 44 deaths. The president, Recept Tayip Erdogan, known for his authoritarian and aggressive methods, is criticized for not authorizing any type of mandatory quarantine in major cities in the country. Turkey has taken less impactful measures, such as closing schools, mandating social isolation for people arriving from abroad and adopting an emergency package to help companies affected by the epidemic. Doctors and managers, however, point out the need to close cities and cut part of the country's internal traffic to slow the spread of the disease.
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban: indefinite state of emergency – 11/09/2018 Jean-Francois Badias / AP
In Hungary, a bill discussed by Parliament to extend the powers of far-right Prime Minister Viktor Orban has sparked criticism from the European Council's Human Rights Commission. The measure would make it possible for the prime minister to extend the state of emergency established due to the coronavirus pandemic indefinitely, even if parliamentarians could not meet to vote on such a decision.
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The head of the Commission, Dunja Mijatović, says she fears that the project will grant "broad powers" to the government, without restrictions or deadlines. Organizations like Amnesty International and other human rights centers have also protested the measure proposed by the Orban government.
Hungary currently has 226 cases of Covid-19 and ten confirmed deaths – critics, however, attribute the low numbers to the lack of tests available for diagnosis. The Hungarian government has already introduced a series of measures to combat the virus, such as closing the country for everyone except Hungarian citizens, limiting the operation of restaurants and shops and closing schools and universities.
Boyko Borisov, Prime Minister of Bulgaria: resistance from allies to his expanded powers Twitter / Reproduction
A measure similar to that discussed in Hungary was approved in Bulgaria, but some of its articles were repealed for fears that it could damage the economy and hurt freedom of expression in the country. The center-right party of the country's prime minister, Boyko Borisov, the GERB, and the far-right legends that are part of the government coalition have a majority in Parliament. Still, some deputies in the group voted against articles of the bill that extended Borisov's powers.
The country's president, Rumen Radev himself, vetoed some parts of the measure, claiming that they could cause more problems than solutions. One of the articles provided for an amendment to the Penal Code to punish with penalties of up to 10,000 Bulgarian levs (28,000 reais) or imprisonment for up to 3 years for spreading “false information” about the pandemic. Radev said the prerogative could be used to undermine freedom of expression. The president, however, has limited power in Bulgaria and can only veto each legislation once.
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As in other European countries, Bulgaria has closed schools, restaurants and other public places and imposed a temporary ban on travel abroad and within the country. There are 242 confirmed cases and 10 deaths.
Rodrigo Duterte, president of the Philippines: fear of abuse of emergency powers – 12/06/2018 Erik De Castro / Reuters
Considered authoritarian by a large part of the international community, the President of the Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte, benefited from Congress with emergency powers to act more actively in the fight against the coronavirus. The measure allows the head of state to have authority over private hospitals and other medical facilities to serve as quarantine centers, as well as greater control over the transport system and the power to reallocate the national budget.
The possibility of Duterte abusing the measure to make other decisions of interest to him already frightens the experts. “No to the emergency powers. Existing powers are already being abused, ”wrote Jay Batongbacal, a law professor at the University of the Philippines, in a Facebook post.
About 50 million people have been quarantined in the country since Duterte ordered the isolation of populations in the capital, Manila, and the island of Luzon. In all, 636 cases of Covid-19 have been recorded in the country, in addition to 38 deaths. Experts, however, say that the number of infected people can be much higher and …