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Brazil minister offends China with ‘racist’ virus tweet

AFP
Brasília
CHINA demanded an explanation from Brazil on Monday after the far-right government’s education minister linked the coronavirus pandemic to the Asian country’s “plan for world domination,” in a tweet imitating a Chinese accent.
In the latest incident to strain ties between Brasilia and Beijing, Education Minister Abraham Weintraub insinuated China was behind the global health crisis.
“Geopolitically, who will come out stronger from this global crisis?” he wrote on Twitter on Saturday.
“Who in Brazil is allied with this infallible plan for world domination?” In the original Portuguese, his tweet substituted the letter “r” with capital “L” -- “BLazil” instead of “Brazil,” for example -- in a style commonly used to mock a Chinese accent.
It was also a reference to a character from a popular Brazilian comic strip, “Monica’s Gang.” The embassy condemned Weintraub’s “absurd and despicable” tweet, calling it “highly racist.” “The Chinese government expects an official explanation from Brazil,” tweeted Ambassador Yang Wanming.
The row comes as Brazil, like many countries, is hoping to source more medical equipment from China to deal with COVID-19.
Weintraub said in an interview he stood by his tweet and called on China to do more to help fight the pandemic.
“If they (China) sell us 1,000 ventilators, I’ll get down on my knees in front of the embassy, apologise and say I was an idiot,” he told Radio Bandeirantes.
Health Minister Luiz Henrique Mandetta said last week Brazil was struggling to source ventilators and other vital health supplies from China, saying some of its orders were canceled without explanation.