US Secretly 'Persuaded' Bolsonaro to Reject Russian COVID Vaccine, Investigative Journalist Explains

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The US government has been pressuring countries not to accept healthcare assistance from countries deemed to be “detrimental” to US safety and security, such as Cuba, Venezuela, and Russia, explains investigative journalist John McEvoy, who first broke the story.

John McEvoy is an independent journalist who has published in the International History Review, The Canary, Tribune Magazine, Jacobin, Declassified UK, and Brasil Wire, among other publications. He reported from Venezuela during the coup efforts in 2019, from Colombia during the student protests the same year, and from France in 2020 on the Yellow Vests movement and general strike. 

Mr McEvoy's main research focus is in contemporary British involvement in Latin America - notably British state intervention and natural resource extraction in Colombia since 1989. McEvoy told Sputnik about his latest exclusive with Brasil Wire, which revealed that the US Department of Health had pressured the Brazilian government not to accept Russia's Sputnik V vaccine, designed to protect against COVID-19.

"[T]he logic of denying a country necessary healthcare during a pandemic – simply in order to remove a potential soft victory from an Official Enemy - borders on genocidal", McEvoy argued.

Sputnik: What exactly is it that you discovered the US Department of Health has been doing in relation to the vaccine Sputnik V, produced in Russia?

John McEvoy: According to the US Department of Health and Human Services’ own report, a US health attaché based in Brazil persuaded “Brazil to reject the Russian COVID-19 vaccine”. The reason for this, the report noted, was to counter “malign influences” in the Americas – meaning Russia, as well as Venezuela and Cuba. So, in short, we discovered that in order to deny Russia a soft power victory in the Americas, the US government actively encouraged the Bolsonaro administration, which owes its very power to a US-backed soft coup, not to purchase an independently approved vaccine.

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This decision could have resulted in the deaths of thousands, if not tens of thousands, of Brazilians. 282,000 Brazilians have died of COVID-19 already, Brazil is currently in its worst phase since the pandemic began, and Bolsonaro’s disastrous COVID-19 policy is largely to blame for this state of affairs.

Sputnik: Are there countries other than Brazil which were also pressured not to accept Sputnik V?

John McEvoy: It’s not clear from this report, but if the US is capable of weighing on Latin America’s largest country, it’s likely that it has at least attempted to pursue similar policies elsewhere. We also know that the US has dispatched health attachés to China, India, Mexico, and South Africa, who are likely charged with similar responsibilities. Of course, however, the health attaché is not the only way the US could achieve this objective of persuading smaller countries to purchase certain vaccines and not others.

Sputnik: Do we know whether these US policies have actually been effective in preventing the use of Sputnik V?

John McEvoy: The Bolsonaro government recently organised the purchase of tens of millions of the Sputnik V vaccine, almost certainly in response to his government’s total mishandling of the pandemic, leading it into crisis zone. But prior to this, Bolsonaro was slow to reach a deal for the purchase of any vaccine except for AstraZeneca’s, leading to total confusion among medical professionals with regards to his COVID-19 policy. Why was he relying on a vaccine that wasn’t even ready for production, while others had come online and were already proven to be effective? Well, it looks like we now have our answer.

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On that note, Brasil Wire also recently revealed that in the run-up to the 2018 presidential election, the British government had also been secretly lobbying the Bolsonaro campaign on behalf of AstraZeneca, as well as its mining interests. It’s not clear whether a relationship between Bolsonaro and AstraZeneca was made as early as 2018, before the pandemic, but it’s certainly also worth considering.

Sputnik: The US Department of Health has also apparently targeted health support and solidarity coming from places like Cuba. Can you explain what is known about this?

John McEvoy: The US DHHS report also noted that it had offered, “CDC technical assistance in lieu of Panama accepting an offer of Cuban doctors”. Cuban doctors, as you know, have been on the frontline of confronting the pandemic since it first spread worldwide in early 2020. They’ve been operational in over 40 countries, mostly in places which have weak healthcare systems.

If you recall, at the start of the pandemic, Cuban doctors were also essential to helping British citizens trapped on a ferry which was refused permission to dock in the Bahamas and Barbados, for which the British government publicly thanked Cuba. So while Cuba exports health, the US – as a general rule – exports misery and poverty. This notion is rarely seen so clearly as in the example of the US actively trying to prevent Panama – which now has one of the worst COVID-19 rates in the entire region – from allowing entry to Cuban doctors, which clearly could have remedied its current terrible predicament.

Sputnik: Why should the average person care about these policies?

John McEvoy: I don’t think it’s hyperbolic to say that the logic of denying a country necessary healthcare during a pandemic – simply in order to remove a potential soft victory from an Official Enemy – borders on genocidal. Of course, we’ve seen the US engage in these types of activities for years – placing crushing sanctions on countries like Venezuela and Syria, which the UN special rapporteur found were massively impacting the civilian population. In a general sense, these types of erosions of sovereignty need to be public knowledge – Bolsonaro came to power through a US-backed soft coup, and now the US seems partially responsible for the deaths of thousands of Brazilians.

The average person should also care because when we see the US accusing Russia of spreading disinformation about vaccines or meddling in elections, there’s a significant element of projection to this – the US is basically always guilty of doing exactly what it says Russia or whoever else is doing.

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