This is our latest article on the new coronavirus as it impacts Rio de Janeiro’s favelas and is also part of RioOnWatch’s #VoicesFromSocialMedia series, which compiles perspectives posted on social media by favela residents and activists about events and societal themes that arise.
The Covid-19 pandemic has cast a bright light on Brazil’s social inequality. Covid-19 was, at first, spoken of as a disease caused by a “democratic” virus, given that, supposedly, it affects all people without discriminating by race, color, social class, age, or sex. RioOnWatch‘s monitoring of favela voices on Twitter and Facebook between April 24 and May 8, however, has revealed a very different reality.
Favela residents, raising their voices on social media using the hashtag #Covid19NasFavelas, called attention to inequality in access to basic rights in Brazil, in cities like Rio de Janeiro, and how the coronavirus pandemic has further accelerated the state of exception in the favelas as a State policy of death. This holds true even as Brazil remains the only +100 million population country with a public universal health system.
Based on the social media posts cited below, all from favela residents, we highlight twelve pieces of evidence of necropolitics in relation to the increasing number of Covid-19 deaths in the favelas. These twelve truths show how necropolitics, reflected in policies whereby the state actively chooses who lives and who dies, not only robs residents of their right to life through armed violence, but kills and renders even more precarious the act of survival in the favelas by denying full access to the right to health care even amidst the Covid-19 pandemic, on top of denying the minimum conditions for living a dignified life.
1. No Hospital Beds or Ventilators: The Collapse of Public Health
Journalist and Complexo do Alemão resident Daiene Mendes used social media on April 24 to denounce a lack of hospital beds with ventilators, even for patients in the public health system’s (SUS) priority list (SISREG). She asked for help and reported the collapse, all the while seeking care for her own grandmother. Mendes’ tweets are devastating.
Minha vó ta precisando de um leito em hospital que tenha respirador! To correndo atrás com todas as minhas forças, se alguem nessa rede puder ajudar, eu agradeço muito!
Ela ta no sisreg como prioridade, mas não tem leito e respirador disponível. Alguém pode ajudar?
— Daiene (@Daienemendes) April 24, 2020
My grandma needs a bed in a hospital that has ventilators! I am doing everything I possibly can, if someone in my network can help, I will be very grateful! She is in the SISREG as a priority patient, but there are no beds or ventilators available. Can anyone help?
jornalistas que quiserem/puderem repercutir, eu vou falar. o sistema de saúde no Rio de Janeiro ja está colapsado. estão esperando minha vó morrer.
— Daiene (@Daienemendes) April 25, 2020
She is still interned at the urgent care unit (UPA) in Complexo de Alemão, in RJ. The oxygen level in her blood is very low (66), she is breathing with the help of oxygen but it isn’t enough and she needs a ventilator.
Journalists that want to/can share this, I am available to talk. The health system in Rio de Janeiro has already collapsed. They are waiting for my grandma to die.
She was unable to attain a transfer, and, on April 25, 24 hours after her first Tweet, the journalist’s grandmother passed away.
Foi tudo por você, vovó. Vc foi forte! Eu nem tanto. Te amo pra sempre.
vovó descansou. pic.twitter.com/hIsQwfkysv
— Daiene (@Daienemendes) April 25, 2020
It was all for you grandma. You were strong! Me, not so much. I will love you forever. Rest in peace grandma.
One day after burying her grandmother, she spoke up again on social media to denounce necropolitics in Rio de Janeiro.
Respirador no hospital não tem, politicas de prevenção para a Pandemia do #Coronavírus não tem, alimentos pra quem tem fome, esquece.
Não tem nada, mas tem helicóptero da @PMERJ e muito tiro de bom dia aqui no #ComplexoDoAlemão.#EstadoAssassino
Diz ai, a revolta não é legítima? pic.twitter.com/pQl9wfLd0W
— Daiene (@Daienemendes) April 27, 2020
I am burying my grandma. The saddest day in my life.
No ventilators for hospitals, no policies for preventing the coronavirus pandemic. Food for those that are hungry, forget it.
There is nothing, but there is a Military Police (@PMERJ) helicopter and plenty of gunshots to wake us up in #ComplexoDoAlemão. #MurderousState
So tell me, our anger isn’t legitimate?
to com medo de morrer e não conseguir escrever tudo o que eu gostaria. o coronavírus ta matando toda minha familia pic.twitter.com/5s4fIcEEyV
— Daiene (@Daienemendes) May 1, 2020
I am scared of dying and not being able to write everything that I would like to. Coronavirus is killing my whole family.
2. A Lack of Covid-19 Tests in the Public Health System (SUS)
The carrying out of laboratory tests to identify Covid-19 is essential to reducing its spread as well as contributing to the adequate treatment of patients. But tests aren’t available for the whole population. Meanwhile, private clinics offer their own tests.
CONTEÚDO ABERTO | Além dos testes que são feitos na rede pública, normalmente só para casos suspeitos, particulares podem procurar laboratórios que ofereçam testagem como serviço pago.
— Jornal NH (@jornalnh) May 8, 2020
OPEN CONTENT: As well as the tests that are conducted as part of the public network, usually only for suspected cases, private clinics can use laboratories that offer paid testing.
The cost varies between R$300 and R$400 (US$50-68, a third of Brazil’s monthly minimum wage, including a home visit from a medical team), including for patients who are past the contagious period or don’t have any symptoms, both to identify Covid-19 and to carry out Coronavirus Antibody Tests (IgG and IgM).
Se não tem teste e tratamento só pra quem é pobre, não é acidente! é de propósito!
Perdi minha vó no sábado, hoje meu tio morreu com suspeita de Covid-19.
Genocídio é o nome do que ta acontecendo no Rio de Janeiro.
— Daiene (@Daienemendes) May 1, 2020
If there are no tests or treatment for those that are poor, it isn’t an accident! It’s on purpose!
I lost my grandma on Saturday, today my uncle died of suspected Covid-19.
Genocide is the name for what is happening in Rio de Janeiro.
A gente tenta controlar a ansiedade e o medo, mas isso tudo é muito assustador. A subnotificação de casos na favela é grave e é real.
Nas últimas duas semanas, quatro vizinhos próximos morreram e só um foi testado por coronavírus. Mais duas vizinhas estão internadas…
— Thaís Cavalcante ( em 🏠) (@tcavalcantes) May 9, 2020
We try to control the anxiety and the fear, but this is very frightening. The underreporting of cases in favelas is serious and real.
In the last two weeks, four close neighbors died and only one was tested for coronavirus. Two more neighbors are in the hospital…
3. Lack of Access to Tests Leading to Underreporting
Because of the speed at which the virus is spreading, and due to a context of such severe social inequality as ours, Brazil is already considered a new global epicenter. According to forecasts and research from the national public health institute, the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation (Fiocruz), through its information portal, Infogripe, it is estimated that each infected Brazilian could infect two to three others.
Anastásio Amorim de 89 anos, líder comunitário da Baixa do Sapateiro, morreu de pneumonia. Sua morte não entrou na estatística de suspeita de COVID-19, por serem muitos casos subnotificados na Maré, por falta de testes. #COVID19NasFavelas
— Voz das Comunidades (De 🏡) (@vozdacomunidade) April 27, 2020
Anastásio Amorim, 89, community leader from Baixa do Sapateiro, died of pneumonia. His death didn’t enter the statistics of suspected COVID-19 cases, like many underreported cases in Maré, due to a lack of testing.
— Monitor da Crise nas Favelas – RJ (@covidnafavela) May 4, 2020
20 or + deaths in #rocinha #COVID19NasFavelas #Covid19Pandemic
23 moradores da Rocinha morreram de Covid-19 e não 9, conforme vinha divulgando a Prefeitura do Rio. Os números de casos confirmados e recuperados também são diferentes, revela painel inédito feito por médicos que trabalham na Rocinha. #COVID19NasFavelashttps://t.co/qIDhRxqhR9
— Fala Roça (@jornalfalaroca) May 4, 2020
23 Rocinha residents have died of Covid-19, and not nine, as is being reported by the City. The number of confirmed cases and recovered patients is also different, as revealed by the groundbreaking monitoring panel made by doctors working in Rocinha. #COVID19NasFavelas
4. Favela Residents Dying in Their Homes
Patients with mild cases of coronavirus have been advised to treat themselves at home, whether or not they know they have Covid-19, given that coronavirus’ SARS-like symptoms can worsen quickly, presenting themselves with or without a lack of breath. Many favela residents have been dying at home.
Não desejo para ninguém que esse carro vá até você, sua família, amigos. Covid-19 não é brincadeira. E cada vez mais tenho visto esse carro subindo e descendo a Rocinha. Cuidem-se! #COVID19NasFavelas pic.twitter.com/Ok1T5CJ5IT
— Michel Silva (@eumichelsilva) April 30, 2020
I don’t want anyone to have this car visit them, their family, or their friends. Covid-19 is not a joke. And I have been seeing this car going up and down Rocinha more and more. Take care of yourselves! #COVID19NasFavelas
5. Lack of Accessible Burials
On the afternoon of April 24, the newspaper Voz das Communidades told the world that Rodrigues Moura, Complexo de Alemão’s first photographer, had died with suspected coronavirus. Voz also reported that the family didn’t have the financial means to pay for the funeral.
O nosso amigo Rodrigues Moura, primeiro fotógrafo do Complexo do Alemão faleceu nesta noite com suspeita de coronavírus. Infelizmente a família não tem dinheiro para o enterro do corpo. Se você puder contribuir, a família criou uma vaquinha on-line: https://t.co/ZlBD7KPEkX
— Voz das Comunidades (De 🏡) (@vozdacomunidade) April 24, 2020
Our friend Rodrigues Moura, Complexo de Alemão’s first photographer, died last night with suspected coronavirus. Sadly, the family doesn’t have money for the burial. If you can donate, the family has set up an online donation page.
Toda hora chega um pedido de ajuda… um aviso que alguém.esta morto em casa e já se passou várias horas… um pedido pra ajudar enterrar gratuitamente. Tá difícil!
Não é brincadeira!#COVID19NasFavelas
— Camila Moradia (@camilamoradia) May 4, 2020
Requests for help arrive every hour… a warning that someone has died at home and several hours have already gone by… a request to help bury someone for free. This is hard! It is not a joke! #COVID19NasFavelas
On May 7, Mayor Marcelo Crivella announced that families receiving up to three minimum-wage salaries (up to around US$500 per month) could receive help from the City to bury their family members for free during the Covid-19 pandemic. The City has also started offering subsidized burials up to the cost of R$546 (US$93) for families of all income brackets.
6. Favela Case Data Hidden by City Government
According to Voz das Communidades’ Covid-19 Nas Favelas monitoring panel, which uses data published on the city government’s monitoring panel, the city has 487 confirmed coronavirus cases in favelas, with 168 deaths. However, data from the City’s own public health units demonstrate that in at least three favelas (Complexo do Alemão, Rocinha, and the favelas of Maré), there are a larger number of cases of infections and deaths from Covid-19.
A equipe do Voz das Comunidades está em contato com muitos médicos das clínicas da família que atendem a região do Complexo do Alemão para entender como estão os atendimentos diante da pandemia que estamos vivendo. #COVID19NasFavelas – THREAD
— Voz das Comunidades (De 🏡) (@vozdacomunidade) April 26, 2020
The Voz das Comunidades team is in contact with many doctors from the Family Health Clinics that attend to the Complexo do Alemão region to understand the conditions of care during the pandemic we are living through. #COVID19NasFavelas
The data survey undertaken by community doctors reveals not only an underreporting due to lack of testing, but also that the City’s case calculation methods, which use patients’ zip codes, disguise the real data, since the large majority of favelas aren’t recognized by the municipality as neighborhoods. Even when they are, as is the case of Complexo do Alemão, there are still inaccuracies.
Apesar do Complexo do Alemão ser reconhecido como bairro desde 1993, a maioria dos CEPs que compõem a região ainda sinalizam os bairros em que o Complexo está inserido, como Inhaúma, Ramos, Bonsucesso e Olaria.
— Voz das Comunidades (De 🏡) (@vozdacomunidade) April 26, 2020
Another big question is the difference between confirmed cases and deaths on the City’s monitoring panel and that of the Zilda Arns Family Health Clinic.
Despite Complexo de Alemão being recognized as a neighborhood since 1993, the majority of zip codes in the area still indicate neighborhoods into which Alemão is integrated, like Inhaúma, Ramos, Bonsucesso, and Olaria.
Sendo assim, no painel da prefeitura, os casos acabam sendo divididos nesses bairros, ao invés de aparecerem unificados como Complexo do Alemão.
— Voz das Comunidades (De 🏡) (@vozdacomunidade) April 26, 2020
As such, on the City’s monitoring panel, cases end up being divided between these neighborhoods, as opposed to appearing as a unified figure for Complexo do Alemão.
7. Lack of Access to Basic Income + Physical Distancing
The delay in releasing emergency assistance forced the population to go back out into the streets, whether to survive or to receive and make payments. The lack of organization, for example, of the pay-out of emergency assistance has caused enormous lines at federal bank Caixa Econômica Federal branches, contributing to crowds in the streets and on public transport, as well as a run on the supermarkets.
Uma desordem total, as pessoas não conseguem baixar o tal app, não conseguem falar ao telefone e se arriscam indo para as filas na madrugada muitos sem máscaras, luvas se quer. Governo covarde expondo nosso povo ao vírus.😔
— Nega Rê ❤️🖤 (@RenataTrajano1) April 28, 2020
Helcimar: Hello @Caixa are you going to sort out this problem of all the people in line?
Renata: A complete mess, people can’t download the app, they can’t talk on the phone, and they are risking lining up at dawn, many without any masks or gloves. Cowardly government exposing our people to the virus.
É muita covardia com o povo em meio a uma pandemia de Covid19. Não podemos esperar muito de quem diz “vou fazer o que “. Que revolta
— Nega Rê ❤️🖤 (@RenataTrajano1) April 29, 2020
[The line for] Inhaúma’s Caixa Federal branch is going around the block. You have no idea how many people are gathered, @Caixa’s app isn’t responding to the demand, it’s not working as it should work. Many heads of families still can’t collect.
This is such cowardice, with people in the middle of the Covid-19 pandemic. We can’t hope for much from those that say “what am I going to do?.” [President Bolsonaro] How awful.
8. State Violence Even During a Pandemic
Residents of various favelas face, as well as the economic crisis, armed State violence. Police operations have already interrupted the distribution of food parcels organized by leaders and favela communicators.
— Camila Moradia (@camilamoradia) April 27, 2020
It is one crisis on top of another. The activities of @gabinetealemao have been frozen this morning. Many volunteers can’t leave their houses. Reason: police operation. #COVID19NasFavelas
Operações policiais na Maré e Mangueira. Além de sobreviver da Covid-19, os moradores ainda precisam sobreviver a política de segurança pública do Rio. Nem na pandemia, nem na pandemia…
— Michel Silva (@eumichelsilva) April 29, 2020
Police operations in Maré and in Mangueira. As well as surviving Covid-19, residents have to survive Rio’s public security policy. Not even during the pandemic, not even during the pandemic …
No meio da Ação na Favela da Galinha @PMERJ invade a favela alegando suposto caminhão roubado. Ou seja confundiu nosso caminhão de doação com um roubado. Nos abrigamos nas casas dos moradores porque teve um forte tiroteiro.
— Nega Rê ❤️🖤 (@RenataTrajano1) April 30, 2020
In the middle of a mission in Favela da Galinha @PMERJ (Military Police of the State of Rio de Janeiro) invaded the favela, claiming the possible theft of a truck. In other words, they confused our donation truck for the stolen one. We took shelter in the houses of residents because there was a heavy shoot-out.
Eu saí cedo da Cidade de Deus. Estou em missão em outra favela. Dei de cara com uma operação policial. Estou recebendo várias mensagens de moradores com medo. Uma moradora me disse que um mototaxista foi atropelado pelo caveirão. Estou averiguando, mas com o coração apertado! 😔
— 🇧🇷 🌻 JOTA MARQUES (@jotamarquesrj) April 30, 2020
I left City of God early. I am on an errand in another favela. I came face-to-face with the police operation. I am receiving many messages from scared residents. A resident told me that a moto-taxi driver was run over by the police armored truck. I am investigating but it is with a shaken heart.😔
Se fiquei mal? Muita coisa. A ausência do estado me deixa mal todos os dias, e ainda sim ele manda o que sempre mandou pras favelas Polícia, a pandemia chegou por aqui com força mais o estado não faz e nunca fará nada por nós.
— Nega Rê ❤️🖤 (@RenataTrajano1) May 1, 2020
After several attempts, one of them responded by phone “we are good, the residents took us in, we took our lifting belts off and we are waiting for it to pass,” I breathed deeply and went to protect myself in a safer place than behind the bricks.
Did I feel sick to my stomach? About many things. The absence of the State leaves me like this every day, and it still sends what it has always sent to favelas. The Police. The pandemic arrived here forcefully but the State isn’t doing and will never do anything for us.
9. Disinformation and Loosening of Physical Distancing
The change in two Ministers of Health, the disparity between the decisions of the federal, state, and municipal governments, but mainly President Jair Bolsonaro’s behavior and constant announcements, are confusing the population. Minimizing the risks of new coronavirus infection, the president condemned physical isolation decreed by governors and mayors as exaggerated and an abuse of power, provoking a chaotic framework for managing the crisis of the pandemic in the country.
A cada pronunciamento irresponsável do presidente, mais mortes são contabilizadas. #BolsonaroÉCulpado
— Salvino Oliveira (@SalvinoOliveir1) April 29, 2020
With each of the president’s irresponsible declarations, more deaths are recorded. #BolsonaroÉCulpado (#BolsonaroIsGuilty)
Com MUITO esforço e isolamento, conseguiremos melhorar a situação, diminuir o contágio e salvar vidas. Porém o estímulo a sair de casa feito pelo governo federal nos leva, a passos largos, para o colapso agora em maio.
Se puder, #Ficaemcasa
— 🇧🇷 🌻 JOTA MARQUES (@jotamarquesrj) May 4, 2020
As @oatila himself said in his live broadcast: testing is confronting the problem with a flashlight. Brazil began with a candle that went out and, now, we are in the dark, tripping over bodies. It’s sad.
With A LOT OF effort and isolation, we will manage to improve the situation, reduce infection, and save lives. However, the federal government’s drive to get people to leave their houses pushes us, quickly, towards the collapse now in May.
If you can, #StayAtHome
Desde o início do @gabinetealemao as falas do Bolsonaro impactaram negativamente nosso trabalho.
Ao dizer que fará churrasco pra 30 pessoas, destrói todos os nossos argumentos…
Infelizmente esse é o cara que vocês escolheram pra direcionar o país.
A gente que lute né…
— Lana Souza (@Lanadsouza) May 8, 2020
Since the start of @gabinetealemao, Bolsonaro’s words have negatively impacted our work.
Saying that he would hold a barbeque for 30 people destroys our arguments…
Unfortunately, this is the guy you chose to lead the country.
It’s our struggle, huh…
As well as saying that coronavirus was just a “little flu,” following the advance of the pandemic in the country, the president, when asked by the press for his stance on the increase in the number of deaths from Covid-19, responded ironically: “So what?” The statement reverberated on social media and press in Brazil and around the world.
No ENEM que vai ocorrer em tempos futuros , haverá uma questão com essa foto pic.twitter.com/abFkaAWwa5
— laerte (@brenolaerte) April 29, 2020
In future ENEMs [Brazil’s college entrance exams], there will be a question with this photo (5,017 deaths – “So what? What do you want me to do? I am the messiah but I don’t make miracles.”)
AGORA ME DIZ VC… Que argumentos eu vou usar pra quem mora aqui na favela ao tentar dizer pra não ter churrasco com família toda no dia das mães?
Bolsonaro diz que fará churrasco para ‘uns 30 convidados’ no sábado – Política – https://t.co/Q0sYeknQcH
— Rene Silva (@eurenesilva) May 8, 2020
NOW YOU TELL ME … What arguments am I going to use for those who live here in the favela to try to tell them not to have a barbeque with the whole family on Mother’s Day?
Bolsonaro said that he is going to have a barbeque with ‘some 30 guests’ on Saturday.
10. Lack of Access to Basic Rights for Survival
There are days when the water flows, there are days when it doesn’t. Other days, there’s no food. Hunger is knocking on the door for many. And for others, in the midst of the fight for survival during the pandemic, there is also the fight for the right to housing.
— Santiago, Raull. (@raullsantiago) April 29, 2020
After three days without water, today it finally started flowing. Now there is the struggle to fill all the containers and the water tank, before it stops. 🙏🏽✨ #DiaryOfAFavelaResidentDuringThePandemic
Quase 10 anos recebendo 400 reais de aluguel social. Minha casa sem previsão de ser construída. Quase 1300 famílias na mesma situação q eu. Quando falam: Fiquem em casa…Eu lembro q preciso sobreviver pra continuar lutando pela minha. #covid19nasfavelas
— Camila Moradia (@camilamoradia) May 5, 2020
Nearly 10 years receiving R$400 (US$68) of social rent support. With no set date for my house to be built. Nearly 1300 families in the same situation as me. When they say: Stay at home… I remember that I need to survive to continue fighting for mine.
11. Race and Class Determine Outcomes
It is the black, poor population living in poor neighborhoods, favelas, and peripheries who are feeling the effects of the pandemic most. Including, not just getting infected with Covid-19, but also by having their mental health compromised.
Necropolitica na teoria e na prática é viver 2020. https://t.co/CCYYEOnBgg
— Marcelle Decothé (@marcelledecothe) May 1, 2020
To live 2020 is to see necropolitics in theory and in practice.
Pedro Borges: Brasilândia: 130 confirmed cases and 81 deaths.
Morumbi: 331 confirmed cases and 8 deaths.
The inequalities of Covid-19 continue and are only increasing.
Cadê os influenciadores brancos falando que o coronavírus atinge a todos sem distinção de cor ou classe social?
— Raife Sales (@Raife_Sales) May 7, 2020
Where are the white influencers saying that coronavirus is affecting everyone without distinguishing color or social class?
And the media portraying the little show in the condominiums of the rich.
12. Us for Us. Nós por Nós.
Before the arrival of the Covid-19 pandemic, community journalists in Rio de Janeiro’s favelas were working to bring accurate news and information to the local population and make their struggles visible. Now, dozens of community media groups, local leaders, and residents are on the “front line” to help neighbors faced with the absence of State policies. The hashtag #Covid19NasFavelas is also demonstrating that it is the favelas themselves who are producing solutions for favelas.
Confesso que é de emocionar vendo meus amigos, amigos daqui da favela mesmo e projetos socias se solidariezando para ajudar os demais moradores. É sobre aquele lema que mais uma vez está fazendo todo o sentido nesse período de coronavírus:
NÓS POR NÓS!
— laerte (@brenolaerte) April 30, 2020
I confess that it moves me that I am seeing my friends, friends here from the favela itself and social projects showing solidarity to help other residents. It is all about that motto which once again makes so much sense in this time of coronavirus:
US FOR US!
Hoje vou dormir tranquila e sem calmantes (espero conseguir)! Minha favela ta limpa, meus vizinhos estão abastecidos de alimentos! É tão pouco o que nosso povo precisa! Eu nunca ando sozinha!
— Daiene (@Daienemendes) May 2, 2020
Today I am going to sleep peacefully and without sleeping pills (I hope)! My favela is clean, my neighbors are supplied with food! Our people need so little! I will never walk alone!
~ #COVID_19 is the symptom, inequality is the virus, and solidarity is the Cure ~