Jair Bolsonaro, the proudly homophobic president of Brazil, has said his nation needs to "stop being a country of fags" in dealing with COVID-19.
Bolsonaro made the statement while speaking Tuesday at the presidential palace in Brasilia. He used the Portuguese word "maricas," which is "an offensive slang term for gay people," The Washington Post reports. Some English-language publications have translated it as "sissies," others as "fags."
"I regret the deaths. I really do," he said, according to a translation by PinkNews. But we're all going to die someday. There's no use fleeing reality. We have to stop being a country of fags. ... We have to face up to it and fight. I hate this faggot stuff."
Brazil has had nearly 5.7 million cases of the novel coronavirus and close to 163,000 deaths as of Wednesday, The New York Times reports. The country, which the Times has called a "global epicenter" of the pandemic, is second only to the U.S. in coronavirus deaths.
Like Donald Trump, with whom he has something of a mutual admiration society, Bolsonaro has ridiculed the wearing of masks to prevent the spread of the virus. At one point he told aides masks are "for fairies," according to Brazilian newspaper Folha de Sao Paulo. But also like Trump, Bolsonaro eventually tested positive for COVID-19. He has apparently recovered.
This week Bolsonaro gloated over the suspension of a vaccine trial in his nation. Anvisa, a Brazilian regulatory agency, ended the trial of a vaccine called CoronaVac, developed by Chinese company Sinovac Biotech, after the death of a participant. A Brazilian TV network reported that the participant's death was not related to the vaccine but was instead a suicide, but in any case the trial is over in Brazil, although CoronaVac is still being tested in Indonesia and Turkey, the BBC reports.
Bolsonaro praised the trial's suspension because the vaccine had been promoted by one of his political rivals, Joao Doria, governor of the state of Sao Paulo. "This is the vaccine Doria wanted to force everyone in Sao Paulo to take. Another victory for Jair Bolsonaro," the president wrote Monday on Facebook, according to The Guardian. Doria may run against Bolsonaro in 2022.
Bolsonaro drew outrage for the "victory" and "fags" comments, in addition to another remark in his Tuesday speech, in which he said Brazil must use "gunpowder" against a major presidential candidate's threat of sanctions over Brazil's management of wildfires. The candidate in question is Joe Biden, now U.S. president-elect, although Bolsonaro did not name him. He has not congratulated Biden on his win, despite the fact that the leaders of many other nations have.
"Between 'gunpowder' and 'fags,' we have more than 160,000 dead in the country," Rodrigo Maia, speaker of the lower house of Brazil's Congress, wrote on Twitter.