Report on Brazil (05/22/2020)

1. What have you noticed since the first week you began monitoring and until now?

My day-to-day focus is mainly tax legal research, but I volunteered to help with this project because I am fluent in Portuguese and I was already tracking the news about COVID-19 in Brazil as most of my family still lives there. To get some in-country feedback on Brazilian legal resources related to COVID-19, I reached out to Daniela Majorie Akama dos Reis in Brazil. She was the 2018 FCIL Schaffer Grant recipient, and we have kept in touch since we met at the 2018 AALL annual meeting. She was happy to help!

2. What have you noticed since the first week you began monitoring and until now?

Brazil’s first novel coronavirus case was confirmed on February 25, 2020, but the country had already declared a public health emergency (Portaria nº 188/2020) on February 3, 2020, and passed Law No. 13,979/2020 on February 6, 2020, providing measures to deal with the novel coronavirus public health emergency. These early responses were part of an effort to repatriate Brazilian citizens from Wuhan, China. In late March, Brazil closed its land borders, and by April, Brazil’s House and Senate started working on a “War Budget” to authorize emergency spending (“Orçamento de Guerra” – PEC 10/2020; PEC 10/2020 fase 2 (106/2020); PEC 106/2020 fase 3). The budget recently passed but is still awaiting presidential signature.

Unfortunately, Brazil’s health crisis has morphed into a political crisis. In late March, a federal court in Rio de Janeiro banned President Jair Bolsonaro from spreading anti-quarantine propaganda that went against Ministry of Health recommendations. The Minister of Health Luiz Henrique Mandetta was later fired in mid-April by Bolsonaro after continued disagreement about mitigation efforts. Then the Minister of Justice Sérgio Moro quit in late April after accusing Bolsonaro of improper conduct surrounding the firing of his federal police chief Maurício Valeixo, which started discussions about possible impeachment on top of growing criticism of Bolsonaro’s handling of the health crisis. Brazil’s Federal Supreme Court has also weighed in on a dispute between the São Paulo newspaper O Estado de S.Paulo and Bolsonaro about his COVID-19 tests, ordering the disclosure of Bolsonaro’s COVID-19 exams (Rcl 40,574). And just last week, the second Minister of Health Nelson Teich quit, and there is currently no Minister of Health appointed yet.

This is the current backdrop to Brazil’s exponential increase in COVID-19 cases, which has led Brazil to become the country with the third-most cases in the world and likely second-most by the end of this week.

3. What situation are you monitoring the most?

I have been monitoring the intersection between federal and state legal responses. São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro have been the hardest hit states. In March, São Paulo was the first state to issue a statewide quarantine. Other states also started implementing quarantine measures later that month, while Bolsonaro was urging Brazilians to return to “normal life.” Also in March, the Democratic Labor Party (PDT) filed an action to declare the federal provisional measure MP n. 926/2020 (amendment to Law No. 13,979/2020) partially unconstitutional because it interfered with state powers. Minister Marco Aurélio of the Federal Supreme Court upheld the federal law, stating it did not exclude acts by states, the Federal District, and municipalities. In April, the Federal Supreme Court confirmed that powers granted to the National Health Surveillance Agency (Agência Nacional de Vigilância Sanitária (Anvisa)) by MP n. 926/2020 did not remove concurrent powers from states and municipalities over public health.

The Washington Post described Brazil’s situation as: “Rather than unifying the country against a common threat, the pandemic response is further dividing this deeply polarized society. Bolsonaro, whose instinct has been to do nothing, has deferred to state governors, who in turn have punted the responsibility of implementing the strictest measures to municipalities. The result has been a confederacy of conflicting and contradictory measures that change not only by state and city, but also by city section.” Terrence McCoy, While Other Countries Look to Open Up, Brazil Can’t Find a Way to Shut Down, Wash. Post, May 10, 2020.

Monitoring all the state legislations, municipal legislations, and the federal legislations related to COVID-19 can be overwhelming. Below are some good resources that are collecting all the legislation into one place.

For federal legislation:
Planalto – Office of the President’s Legislation Portal – COVID-19 Legislation (government website)

For state and municipal legislation:
LeisMunicipais – Coronavírus (non-government website compiling all state and municipal laws)

4. Is there anything else you would like to add?

I have encountered two obstacles with monitoring Brazilian legal responses to COVID-19. First, it can be difficult to find English language resources on Brazilian law, and that has been true during these first few months of monitoring COVID-19 legal responses on Brazil. However, below are some English language websites that I found helpful for those who do not speak Portuguese:

Second, Brazilian newspapers are not providing free access to their COVID-19 articles. Therefore, monitoring Brazilian news sources requires a subscription to the newspaper or to news aggregators. However, they are good resources if you can access them, so I have highlighted a few that I found helpful:

By Mary Abigail B. Dos Santos

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