CNN’s International Security Editor Nick Paton Walsh reports from Rio de Janeiro as the coronavirus spreads through the favelas, with Brazil now the country with the second highest number of coronavirus infections behind the United States.
A drug gang granted CNN access to one of Rio’s poorest and most socially isolated communities to illustrate how it has dealt with Covid-19 in an area inaccessible to state healthcare. One gang member, Ronaldo, told Paton Walsh, “We fear the virus, not Bolsonaro. We can’t count exactly how many have already died. The hospitals kill more than if you stay home and take care of yourself.”
Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro has been a supporter of anti-lockdown protests and has refused to wear a face mask during many of his public duties. Ronaldo says the president’s actions have hindered progress, “The isolation was going well here but now even the President himself — in his own words — is disregarding it. But we can’t ease it. We’ve seen a lot of death. We know it’s not a small thing.”
Drug dealers have become as knowledgeable about Covid-19 as they are about narcotics. When asked if they would accept the hydroxychloroquine that the United States has agreed to send to Brazil, Ronaldo replied, “I don’t think hydroxychloroquine helps. It’s BS. Everything that comes to Brazil from abroad has already been contaminated.”
Paton Walsh also met street vendors, manicurists, hairdressers, and supermarket workers, all of whom had stories of death or infection from coronavirus. Daniel, who runs a street food stall, spoke about the overwhelming spread of the disease, “The virus is in control here. Even the dealers are afraid. It’s not possible to control everyone.”