Published: Nov 8, 2021 17:45 GMT
The gesture comes after the president withdrew the order of scientific merit from two researchers.
Twenty prominent Brazilian scientists have decided to rebel against the statements and provocative actions of the president, Jair Bolsonaro. And they have done so by collectively rejecting the decoration of the National Order of Scientific Merit, one of the most prestigious in Brazil and which the president himself had awarded them.
A gesture with which they also wanted to show their rejection of the ultra-rightist’s decision, announced last week, to withdraw the order of scientific merit from researchers Marcus Vinícius Guimarães Lacerda, from the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation medical research center (Fiocruz), and Adele Schwartz Benzaken, director of Fiocruz for the Amazon.
Earlier, Benzaken was fired from the leadership of the HIV department of the Ministry of Health when Bolsonaro came to power, after his department published a brochure aimed at transgender men.
Meanwhile, Lacerda demonstrated in a study the ineffectiveness of chloroquine to combat covid-19. Openly against this drug, which Bolsonaro defends ad nauseam, the researcher came to receive threats, which forced him to travel with an escort.
“The Brazilian government not only ignores science, but actively boycotts epidemiological and collective health recommendations”
The other award-winning scientists were quick to react. In a letter they say they are honored to receive “one of the highest recognitions that a scientist can receive”, but regret that it is granted by a government that “not only ignores science, but actively boycotts epidemiological and collective health recommendations.”
“As scientists, we do not tolerate the way that denialism in general, harassment of fellow scientists, and recent cuts in federal budgets for science and technology have been used as tools to roll back the important advances made by the Brazilian scientific community in the last decades “, they affirm.
“We must react in the name of democracy”
The president of the Brazilian Academy of Sciences, Luiz Davidovich, said he understood “perfectly” the position of the scientists and harshly criticized Bolsonaro. “It is a political purge of those that we have heard about in totalitarian regimes in the 20th century and we must condemn it,” he said in reference to the far-rightist’s decision to withdraw the commemoration of Benzaken and Lacerda.
“It is an ethical attitude, of protest, against discrimination. I think it is necessary to react against these authoritarian acts, because they can evolve and increase. We must react in the name of democracy,” he added.
The National Order of Scientific Merit is one of Brazil’s highest decorations for scientists and was established in 1993 by then-President Itamar Franco to honor professionals who perform “relevant contributions to science and technology”.
A new blow to the popularity of the president
This gesture by the scientific community is a blow for the president, whose popularity is in free fall.
Since the pandemic began, Bolsonaro has always gone against the medical recommendations of quarantine and has encouraged the population not to wear a mask, in addition to generating large crowds in the worst moments of covid-19 and promoting drugs without scientific efficacy proven.
There are currently more than one one hundred impeachment requests against him and recently he was also charged with various crimes, including crimes against humanity, by a Senate commission that for months investigated the actions and omissions of his Government in the management of the pandemic, which has left more than 609,000 dead. Among its conclusions, the commission considered that the Executive continues to encourage the population to take drugs such as chloroquine.
Last September, the president defended these remedies before the UN National Assembly. “History and science will know how to hold everyone responsible,” he said.
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