Coronavirus: Brazil senators say anti-China views hurt country’s access to Covid-19 vaccines
Brazilian senators on Tuesday accused the country’s former foreign minister of undermining efforts to obtain Covid-19 vaccines after he used anti-China rhetoric during the pandemic.
In a parliamentary inquiry into far-right President Jair Bolsonaro’s handling of the world’s second-deadliest outbreak of the novel coronavirus, senators blamed the president and his inner circle for delays in deliveries from China of active ingredients to make Sinovac Biotech’s vaccine in Brazil.
Ernesto Araujo, who was replaced as foreign minister in March, told senators on Tuesday (Brazil time) that Bolsonaro’s disparagement of the Chinese vaccine did not affect relations with Brazil’s largest trade partner or delay vaccine supplies.
Araujo last year published an article entitled “The Comunavirus Has Arrived” where he argued that the novel coronavirus was part of a plan for global domination.
In the hearing, he denied the article disparaged China.
“It was not a reference to coronavirus but to an ideological virus, coined by another author, that creates the conditions for a global communist society,” he told the Senate commission.
Senator Katia Abreu, a farmer and former agriculture minister, said Araujo’s views and those of the Bolsonaro government had hurt exports to China, where the approval of dozens of Brazilian meatpacking plants had been held up in Beijing.
Araujo said his criticism of China’s ambassador to Brazil last year was not an attack on China but a complaint about the diplomat’s “unacceptable” tweet, which said the Bolsonaro family was a “huge poison” for Sino-Brazil relations.
The diplomat’s tweet, which he quickly deleted, was prompted by the president’s son Eduardo Bolsonaro, then chair of the House foreign relations committee, blaming authoritarianism in China for preventing faster action against the pandemic.
Attacks on China by members of Bolsonaro’s inner circle further soured diplomatic relations last year. The spat was laid to rest when Bolsonaro called President Xi Jinping and the two presidents agreed to work together to fight the coronavirus.
A surge of Covid-19 cases this year has raised Brazil’s death toll to more than 435,000, and the country is short of vaccines. Just one in eight Brazilian adults have been fully vaccinated. Through April, 85 per cent of the vaccines administered in Brazil were from China’s Sinovac.
Meanwhile, Brazil’s Butantan biomedical institute said on Tuesday China would reduce its shipment of pharmaceutical ingredients for producing Covid-19 vaccines next week to 3,000 litres (790 gallons) from 4,000.
This means the shipment scheduled for May 26 would now make 5 million doses of the Coronavac shot, Butantan said, instead of the 7 million Sao Paulo state Governor Joao Doria had tweeted on Monday.
Butantan, which is backed by the state of Sao Paulo, is producing the Coronavac vaccine with China’s Sinovac.