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A COVID Genocide in the Americas?

Just as political leaders like Donald Trump and Jair Bolsonaro have forced a reckoning about the historical persistence of fascist politics, so have their disastrous responses to the COVID-19 pandemic renewed the relevance of the concept of genocide. How else are we to come to grips with so many culpably avoidable deaths?

NEW YORK – Many commentators seeking to understand Donald Trump and Trumpism have found clarity in historically resonant concepts such as fascism. And yet, the most damning element of that historical parallel, the phenomenon of genocide, has yet to feature prominently in the US public discussion.

In this respect, the United States has lagged behind Brazil, where Gilmar Mendes, a judge on Brazil’s Supreme Federal Court, warned last July that Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro’s craven response to COVID-19 might make his government culpable in genocide against Indigenous people.

With the US COVID-19 death toll now having exceeded 400,000, it may be time for the American mainstream to acknowledge Trumpism’s own genocidal potential. As in Brazil, Indigenous communities in the US have suffered disproportionately from the pandemic, leading the scholar Nick Estes to compare the Trump administration’s response to the original genocide against Native Americans.

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