Brazilian Activists Display Fake Body Bags Representing Dead as Country Becomes Second to Pass 400,000 Deaths

Activists laid 400 plastic bags representing dead bodies at Copacabana beach in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on Friday to memorialize the country's more than 400,000 COVID-19 deaths.

"400k dead? Who are responsible and accomplices?" said Rio de Paz, the non-governmental organization that set up the demonstration in a Facebook post translated by Google. "Every hour a dramatization will be done by the protesters, symbolizing the burial of those whose lives would have been preserved if the Brazilian public authorities did not act with such neglect and incompetence."

400 fake body bags are placed by Rio de la Paz NGO members in memory of #COVID19 victims on #Copacabana beach in #RiodeJaneiro, #Brazil. The NGO pays tribute to more than 400,000 Brazilian COVID-19 fatalities recorded so far. 📷 epa / EFE / Antonio Lacerda #epaphotos

— european pressphoto agency (@epaphotos) April 30, 2021

Each of the 400 fake body bogs donned a Brazilian national flag, and demonstrators laid the plastic bags on the beach in a performance "symbolizing the burial of those whose lives would have been preserved if the Brazilian public authorities did not act with such neglect and incompetence," the Facebook post said.

Manifestação do Rio de Paz, em Copacabana, nesta sexta-feira (30), em memória dos mortos pela covid-19 e em repúdio a como o Governo Federal vem tratando...

The demonstration came just one day after Brazil became the second country to officially reach over 400,000 COVID-19 deaths, the Associated Press reported. Some experts consider the number to even be an undercount considering that many cases went untested early in the pandemic.

An activist from Rio de Paz stands on Copacabana beach in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, where they placed symbolic body bags and dug mock graves during an event to pay homage to the nation's 400,000 dead of coronavirus and protest against official response to pandemic. Buda Mendes/Getty Images

Brazil's health care system is no longer on the brink, but recovery has been modest as the southern hemisphere nation heads into winter. Only 10 states have Intensive Care Unit (ICU) capacity over 90 percent—a big drop compared to 17 states at that point one month ago, according to data from Fiocruz medical research institute cited by AP.

But this is a mere thawing of extreme conditions; fewer than 2,400 deaths per day in the past two weeks, making April the nation's deadliest month yet, AP reported.

"The situation in all Brazilian states requires adoption of more drastic measures to contain the virus," Domingos Alves, an adjunct professor of social medicine at the University of Sao Paulo, told AP. "The number of cases is very high and we aren't doing anything to contain the virus."

While additional safety measures might be needed, the government has yet to prove it can implement an effective national strategy to combat the pandemic. The nation's vaccine rollout has been extremely slow, with fewer than 7 percent of Brazilians fully vaccinated, according to NPR. And while Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro continues to rebuke COVID-19 restrictions, he said in a live broadcast on April 29 that he is "sorry for every death."

"I pray to God so there is not a third wave" of the virus, he said. "But if the lockdown policies continue this country will be dragged to extreme poverty."

In addition to Friday's demonstrations, there are calls for accountability within Brazil's government, too. As of this week, Bolsonaro is under Senate investigation for politicizing the pandemic and failing to purchase vaccines. The investigation into the Brazilian government's response was launched on Tuesday and could lead to charges and impact Bolsonaro's re-election goals in 2022. Bolsonaro has denied any allegation of wrongdoing in his pandemic response, despite rebuking mask-wearing and publicly rejecting the COVID-19 vaccine.

𝟒𝟎𝟎 𝐦𝐢𝐥 𝐦𝐨𝐫𝐭𝐨𝐬? 𝐐𝐮𝐞𝐦 𝐬ã𝐨 𝐨𝐬 𝐫𝐞𝐬𝐩𝐨𝐧𝐬á𝐯𝐞𝐢𝐬 𝐞 𝐨𝐬 𝐜ú𝐦𝐩𝐥𝐢𝐜𝐞𝐬? Essa é a pergunta que a ONG Rio de Paz, levará para as ruas nesta sexta-feira (30), das 6h às 14h, em manifestação na Praia de Copacabana, altura da Av.Princesa Isabel. #riodepaz

— riodepaz (@riodepaz) April 29, 2021

According to a Twitter thread Rio de Paz posted Thursday evening, Brazilian people have been in dire need of better information and deserve an organized response. The non-governmental organization exemplified the Supera Rio program, which was supposed to provide emergency aid from the state of Rio. The program was approved in February but "now there is no information on how to register to receive help," the organization wrote.

To these activists, it's up to the government to admit its faults to its people.

"The federal Government committed unjustifiable faults that cost thousands of lives," Antonio Carlos Costa, president of Rio de Paz said in a tweet translated by Google. "The President of the Republic himself erred by the lack of example and empathy. He behaved as if a treacherous virus was not spreading across the country, contaminating, incapacitating and killing."

Newsweek has reached out to Rio de Paz for additional comment.

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