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HomeTechnologyOpinion - Reinaldo José Lopes: The capybara by astronaut Marcos Pontes

Opinion – Reinaldo José Lopes: The capybara by astronaut Marcos Pontes


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The reader may forgive the relative vulgarity of the expression, but it is always convenient to pull a candidate’s capybara — the subject’s record of rendered (or useless) services.

The carelessness with which we treat legislative elections prevents this from being done with due diligence in the case of candidates for the Senate. But I believe that, at least in the case of the state of São Paulo, a capybara deserves special attention: that of the astronaut.

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Marcos Cesar Pontes, a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel, from Bauru, the only Brazilian to join the crew of the International Space Station, was Minister of Science, Technology and Innovation for almost the entire Bolsonaro government, leaving the post only to prepare his campaign for the Senate. .

As bolsonarismo and science are the proverbial duo of oil and water, one would expect Pontes to be in the eye of the hurricane over the last four years. The retired astronaut even tried to use his good-natured reputation to win the trust of the scientific community, in addition to rehearsing some protests about budget cuts for his portfolio, made at the behest of people much bigger than him.

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But what happened when things really got tough and Pontes had to choose between facts and subservience to the creed of bolsonarismo? Two moments are instructive.

In July 2019, Bolsonaro was suffering from syncope because of the increasing data on deforestation in the Amazon, detected by the National Institute for Space Research. He then insinuated that physicist Ricardo Galvão, president of Inpe, would be “at the service of some NGO”. Galvão responded to the president at the time; Pontes did not have the guts to defend Inpe’s figures and dismissed the researcher. The curious thing is that, since then, deforestation data have only gotten worse and no one says they are forged — not even government officials.

The second incident took place at the height of the pandemic, between April and October 2020, when Pontes loudly announced the alleged success of the vermifuge nitazoxanide against Covid.

In the desperate search for magical solutions and good news for the Bolsonaro government, the positive effects of the drug became public when there were still only in vitro tests (which, from a clinical point of view, say very little or nothing). Months later, Pontes publicly reiterated that the drug was useful in the early days of the infection, but the scientific article on the topic said that it had no real effect on the progression of the disease.

Let the reader draw his conclusions about these episodes. But it seems difficult to interpret them as anything other than the acts of a moral invertebrate that does any business in the name of political survival.

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