Mr. Bolsonaro called those measures “extreme” and warned that they would result in malnutrition.

The president also dismissed the threat of the virus, sowed doubts about vaccines, which his government has been slow to procure, and often encouraged crowds of supporters at political events.

As a second wave of cases this year led to the collapse of the health care system in several cities, local officials again imposed a raft of strict measures — and found themselves at war with Mr. Bolsonaro.

“People have to have freedom, the right to work,” he said last month, calling the new quarantine measures imposed by local governments tantamount to living in a “dictatorship.”

Early this month, as the daily death toll from the virus sometimes surpassed 4,000, Mr. Bolsonaro acknowledged the severity of the humanitarian crisis facing his country. But he took no responsibility and instead faulted local officials.

“Brazil is at the limit,” he said, arguing that the blame lay with “whoever closed everything.”

But economists said that the argument that restrictions intended to control the virus would worsen Brazil’s economic downturn was “a false dilemma.”

In an open letter addressed to Brazilian authorities in late March, more than 1,500 economists and businesspeople asked the government to impose stricter measures, including lockdown.

wrote.

Laura Carvalho, an economist, published a study showing that restrictions can have a negative short-term impact on a country’s financial health, but that, in the long run, it would have been a better strategy.

“If Bolsonaro had carried out lockdown measures, we would have moved earlier from the economic crisis,” said Ms. Carvalho, a professor at the University of São Paulo.

Mr. Bolsonaro’s approach had a broadly destabilizing effect, said Thomas Conti, lecturer at Insper, a business school.

“The Brazilian real was the most devalued currency among all developing countries,” Mr. Conti said. “We are at an alarming level of unemployment, there is no predictability to the future of the country, budget rules are being violated, and inflation grows nonstop.”

campaign called Tem Gente Com Fome, or People are Going Hungry, with the aim of raising money from companies and individuals to get food baskets to needy people across the country.

Mr. Belchior, one of the founders, said the campaign was named after a poem by the writer and artist Solano Trindade. It describes scenes of misery viewed as a train in Rio de Janeiro makes its way across poor neighborhoods where the state has been all but absent for decades.

“Families are increasingly pleading for earlier food deliveries,” said Mr. Belchior. “And they’re depending more on community actions than the government.”

Carine Lopes, 32, the president of a community ballet school in Manguinhos, a low-income, working-class district of Rio de Janeiro, has responded to the crisis by turning her organization into an impromptu relief center.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, the price of basic products rose dramatically at nearby stores, she said. The cost of cooking oil more than tripled. A kilogram of rice goes for twice as much. As meat became increasingly prohibitive, Sunday outdoor cookouts became a rarity in the neighborhood.

Long used to fielding calls from parents who desperately wanted a slot for their children at the ballet school, Ms. Lopes has gotten used to a very different appeal. Old acquaintances and strangers text her daily asking about the food baskets the ballet school has been distributing weekly.

“These moms and dads are only thinking about basic things now,” she said. “They call and say: ‘I’m unemployed. I don’t have anything else to eat this week. Is there anything you can give us?’”

When the virus finally recedes, the poorest families will have the hardest time bouncing back, she said.

Ms. Lopes despairs thinking of students who have been unable to tune in to online classes in households that have no internet connection, or where the only device with a screen belongs to a working parent.

“No one will be able to compete for a scholarship with a middle-class student who managed to keep up with classes using their good internet and their tablets,” she said. “Inequality is being exacerbated.”

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