Twenty-one scientists from one of Brazil’s top awards refused to present their medals on Saturday after President Zaire Bolsonaro removed two of his colleagues from the list, saying their work was unsatisfactory for the government.
The right-wing president nominated 25 people for the 1992 National Order of Scientific Merit Award, created by Brazil to recognize authors who have made significant contributions to science and technology.
However, two days later, he removed two prominent scientists from the list.
One of them was Marcus Laserda, who did one of the first studies on the ineffectiveness of chloroquine against COVID-19, but Mr. to fight the epidemic. Bolsonaro has been arguing for a long time.
Another, Adele Benzacen, was fired as head of the HIV / AIDS division of the Brazilian Ministry of Health when Zaire Bolsonaro became president in 2019.
“This is another clear indication of the harassment of scientists,” the 21 protesters wrote in an open letter, further condemning the current Brazilian government’s “strategy of systematic attack on science and technology.”
By “this protest action, it hurts us”, these scientists expressed their “outrage at the destruction of the Brazilian university system and of science and technology in general”.
Zaire Bolsonaro’s cuts in research and technology budget, constant denial of scientific results and dissemination of misinformation, especially in relation to COVID-19, have drawn sharp criticism from the scientific community.
The president, while calling for the use of chloroquine to treat the disease, also ignored expert recommendations about using protective masks or restraint to contain the epidemic, despite evidence of its ineffectiveness.
In an interview with AFP, Ms. Benjaken said he was “highly honored” by the decision by his colleagues to reject their medals in the wake of the government’s “disgusting” treatment of him and the government. His colleague is Marcus Laserda.
“It’s the greatest honor of all,” she added.