SAO PAULO, Oct 23 (Reuters) – Brazilians on Sunday paid tribute in Sao Paulo to friends and family members who died of the coronavirus by writing messages on a mural set up on a boulevard in honor of the 680,000 people Brazil lost to the pandemic.
The South American nation as of July had the world’s third-highest death toll from the disease, which critics of President Jair Bolsonaro called the result of delays in obtaining vaccines and his repeated dismissal of the seriousness of the disease.
On the bustling Paulista Avenue, which is closed to vehicle traffic on Sunday, participants wrote messages with red markers on a white mural, some hugging one another as they remembered lost loved ones.
“My companion would probably have lived if the vaccine had been purchased in September of 2020,” said Fatima Oliver, 65, an occupational therapist, whose partner died at 66 from COVID-19. “What we watched was an insult. We watched a crime, we watched the banalization of death.”
Representatives from the Terena and Guarani tribes joined the demonstration, some donning headdresses and black-and-red face paint.
“I think it’s important for us to pay homage to a moment that was so important in our lives, to remember everyone who lost someone,” said Maria Botafogo, who wrote a message to a math teacher who she said had been important to her.
Former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who faces Bolsonaro in a presidential run-off vote on Oct 30, has attacked the president’s pandemic response while on the campaign trail.
Bolsonaro’s supporters say Lula has politicized the issue, and argue that the deployment of the vaccine was in line with that of other developed countries.
“The companies that developed the vaccines, they first used them in their own countries,” said Jackson Vilar, 43, who was collecting signatures on Sunday in favor of Bolsonaro on the same boulevard.
“The left takes that and uses it for all sorts of politicking, it’s really ugly.”