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Brazil health minister suggests `drug lords’ cooperation to tackle Covid-19 in slums

Prashasti Awasthi Mumbai | Updated on April 10, 2020

Brazil’s Minister of Health Luiz Henrique Mandetta gestures during a news conference, amid the coronavirus disease outbreak in Brasilia, Brazil.   -  REUTERS

The government is fearing the ramifications of the pandemic if it erupts in its favelas, crowded neighbourhoods that often lack basic sanitation and health care infrastructure

Brazil’s health minister suggested that the country should convene a meeting with drug lords and militia groups to address the issue of coronavirus in Brazil’s one of the most impoverished favela neighbourhoods, as per media reports.

The health ministry is fearing the ramifications of the pandemic if it erupts in its favelas, crowded neighbourhoods that often lack basic sanitation and health care infrastructure.

Health Minister Luiz Henrique Mandetta said the government had to admit who holds power in many such neighbourhoods.

“We have to understand that these are areas where the state is often absent, and the ones in charge are drug traffickers and militia groups,” he told a news conference.

“How do we build a bridge to them? By talking, yes, with drug traffickers, with militias, because they are human beings, too, and they need to help.” He said the authorities had just launched a pilot project in one favela on managing coronavirus risk but did not confirm the area.

An estimated 11.5 million Brazilians live in favelas, around 6 per cent of the population.

They are frequent encounters between militias armed gangs and police.

The health minister has clashed with his leader, far-right President Jair Bolsonaro, who believes that locking down Brazil would unnecessarily damage the economy. Brazil has confirmed nearly 16,000 coronavirus cases, with 800 deaths so far.

However, the gangs had already enforced the lockdown, days before the health minister advocated for their cooperation.

Rio’s favelas had registered the first confirmed case of coronavirus on March 25.

After the case surfaced, criminal gangs that had long held sway across Rio’s favelas were taking their precautions against the virus, according to media reports.

 

Published on April 10, 2020

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