Bolsonaro under fire as Brazil hits 300,000 virus deaths Sao Paulo Rio De Janeiro One Senate Jair Bolsonaro

Mere miles from Brazil’s presidential palace, the bodies of COVID-19 victims were laid on floors of hospitals whose morgues were overflowing. Lawmakers fielded calls from panicked constituents across the country, where thousands awaited intensive care beds, and they had no effective health minister to turn to Sunday.

Meanwhile, a smiling President Jair Bolsonaro met hundreds of supporters to pass out pieces of green-and-yellow cake in celebration of his 66th birthday. The mood was jubilant even as the country approached a bleak coronavirus milestone.

Brazil was in political disarray as it surpassed 300,000 deaths from the virus Wednesday evening. Foes and allies alike are pleading with the president to change course to stem a recent surge of daily deaths accounting for almost one-third of the total worldwide.

Bolsonaro this month began shifting rhetoric on the value of vaccines but continues to refuse restrictions on activity he paints as infringement on personal freedom and still promotes unproven COVID-19 cures.

“Should I change my narrative? Should I become more malleable? Should I give in? Do what the vast majority is doing?” Bolsonaro said Monday during a ceremony at the presidential palace. “If I am convinced to do otherwise, I will. But I haven’t been convinced yet. We must fight against the virus, not against the president.”

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