MIAMI (AFP) — Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro on Monday minimized the threat of the new coronavirus — which has killed more than 4,000 people in more than 90 countries and tanked global financial markets — saying its destructive power has been “overstated.”
The fall of world markets “basically has to do with the price of oil, which sank 30%, and with the coronavirus issue too,” the ultraright-wing president told a crowd of about 200 Brazilian supporters in Miami, where he is trying to drum up foreign investment.
“In my opinion, that virus’s destructive power is overstated. Maybe it is even potentially being exaggerated for political reasons,” Bolsonaro said — a comment echoing President Trump’s unsupported charges against Democrats.
The Sao Paulo exchange plummeted by more than 12% Monday, its biggest fall since 1998, and shares of Brazilian state-controlled oil giant Petrobras dropped more than 3%, as world investors panicked in the face of the spread of the new coronavirus and plunging oil prices.
Bolsonaro is traveling around Florida to try to boost investor confidence in Latin America’s biggest economy.
He also met with President Trump at Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach.
Trump has faced criticism for his own efforts to downplay the coronavirus’s threat by repeatedly contradicting government public health experts.
Trump, flanked by Bolsonaro, said on Saturday he was “not concerned at all” about the virus and that he planned to continue his political rallies as normal even as a flood of other public events were canceled.
The head of the World Health Organization in Geneva, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said Monday that “the threat of a pandemic has become very real” as cases rise around the globe, including in Brazil.
© Agence France-Presse