BY: JACK ARNHOLZ, ABC NEWS
(NEW YORK) — A judge has ordered Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro to wear a face mask or receive a fine.
In a decision issued Monday, Brazilian Federal Judge Renato Borelli said the president of South America’s largest country must wear a face covering while in public or receive a fine of nearly $400 a day.
“The President of the Republic has a constitutional obligation to observe the laws in force in the country,” the court said in its ruling. “A simple Google search is enough to find countless images of the defendant Jair Messias Bolsonaro moving around Brasília and the surrounding federal district without using a mask and exposing others.”
Brazil’s leader has been criticized at home and abroad for his lax response to the coronavirus pandemic, dismissing it as a “little cold” at the onset of the crisis.
Bolsonaro — similar to Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador and President Donald Trump — has often refused to wear a face covering during the pandemic.
Defying social distancing recommendations of many Brazilian health and government officials, Bolsonaro has ousted two health ministers during the pandemic. He fired one for supporting restrictions imposed by regional governors, as Bolsonaro publicly undermined them and rallied his supporters to disobey them.
The second quit after openly disagreeing with Bolsonaro over chloroquine, an anti-malarial drug related to hydroxychloroquine, which Trump has also touted as a treatment for COVID-19.
Since then, Brazil’s coronavirus numbers have soared to the second highest in the world, trailing only the United States. More than 1.1 million people in Brazil either have COVID-19 or have died from it, according to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center.
Bolsonaro’s response has alienated even former supporters, with many governors refusing to relax social distancing measures despite the far-right leader’s insistence.
In late April, the governor of Brazil’s capital, Brasília, enacted an order to require all citizens — including federal workers — to wear masks in public.
Despite the order, Bolsonaro has continued to appear in public without a mask — even wiping his nose with his hand right before shaking hands with an elderly woman.
As investigations grow into possible obstruction of justice and activities involving two of Bolsonaro’s sons, the federal order only adds to the plethora of political crises already facing the far-right president.
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