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article imageBolsonaro takes down virus shortage video after uproar

By AFP     Apr 1, 2020 in World

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro posted a video online Wednesday of a market supposedly hit by shortages caused by coronavirus -- but apologized hours later after journalists found the same market to be well-stocked.

The far-right leader has repeatedly railed against social distancing measures to fight the spread of the new coronavirus, warning that keeping people home will needlessly hurt the economy, kill off jobs and lead to chaos and looting.

But he has also run afoul recently of several social media networks for spreading misinformation about the global pandemic.

This time, in support of his argument, he shared -- and then removed, with apologies -- a video on Facebook and Twitter of a wholesale market in the city of Belo Horizonte, its aisles emptied of food.

"Look at this. This is called shortages," says the man filming the video.

"To the people who criticized the president, saying the economy's not as important as saving lives: look at this. Hunger kills, too."

He states the video was taken Tuesday.

Local journalists who visited the market found it full of food Wednesday morning, with trucks arriving regularly to make new deliveries.

Brazilian supermarket associations have repeatedly said in recent days that supply chains are operating normally.

The video was accompanied by text on Bolsonaro's accounts that criticized the "destruction" caused by confinement measures.

"These are facts that must be shown to the world," it said.

The post was deleted from Bolsonaro's accounts after about three hours.

"I would like to apologize. That report was not checked out as it should have been," Bolsonaro said later in an interview on Band TV.

"It happens. People get the news wrong. I have the humility to apologize."

The president relies heavily on social networks.

But Twitter, Facebook and Instagram all removed videos he posted Sunday of himself shaking hands, taking pictures and chatting with supporters, encouraging them to keep the economy going -- and flouting health authorities' guidelines on social distancing.

The social networks said the content violated their policies on spreading misinformation that could harm people.

Bolsonaro has compared the new coronavirus to a "little flu," condemned the reaction to it as "hysteria" and said Brazilians' immune systems are so strong they can swim in raw sewage and "don't catch a thing."

His anti-quarantine views have left him increasingly isolated, in Brazil and beyond.

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