In Brief

Brazilian minister says Covid-19 part of China ‘plan for world domination’

Relations between the two nations have been strained for months

China is furious after a minister in Brazil suggested Covid-19 is part of a plan in Beijing for “world domination”.

Abraham Weintraub, the far-right government’s education minister, wrote on Twitter: “Geopolitically, who will come out stronger from this global crisis? Who in Brazil is allied with this infallible plan for world domination?”

The Guardian says the tweet was seemingly composed to mock the Chinese accent, explaining: “In the original Portuguese, his tweet substituted the letter ‘r’ with capital ‘L’ – ‘BLazil’ instead of ‘Brazil,’ for example,” it said.

China’s embassy in Brazil condemned Weintraub’s tweet as “absurd and despicable”, also describing it as “highly racist”. Ambassador Yang Wanming tweeted that “the Chinese government expects an official explanation”.

Speaking to Radio Bandeirantes, Weintraub said he stands by his tweet, adding: “If they [China] sell us 1,000 ventilators, I’ll get down on my knees in front of the embassy, apologise and say I was an idiot”. 

However, he went on to be less compromising about Beijing. “When the crisis erupted, instead of alerting the world, they withheld information and rushed to build respirators, which they’re now selling to a world that’s desperate for them,” he told the station. 

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Brazil is currently trying to source more medical equipment from China to deal with Covid-19. Health Minister Luiz Henrique Mandetta told Reuters that Brazil had to turn to several countries for supplies.

“The first country said no, the second said no, and we were worried. At the end of the afternoon yesterday, the fifth country [Brazil] agreed and will deliver in 30 days. It is a very large purchase, enough for more than 60 days,” he said. 

Relations between the two nations have been tense in recent months. President Jair Bolsonaro’s son Eduardo, a federal lawmaker, has attacked the Beijing “dictatorship” for its handling of the pandemic.

Last week, he tweeted about the “Chinese virus”, prompting China’s consul general in Rio de Janeiro, Li Yang, to ask: “Are you really that naive and ignorant?”

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