Wearing a bright-yellow sport coat and matching sunglasses while standing outside his art studio, Romero Britto smiled wide and waved at a motorcade carrying a delegation of Brazilian dignitaries to Wynwood this past March 8.
When Jair Bolsonaro, the president of Brazil, stepped out of a silver SUV, the artist shook his hand and hugged him. Bolsonaro, his wife, and about 60 others toured Britto's Wynwood studio that day.
The artist — known for his splashy cubism-meets-pop-art style — unveiled a portrait of the Brazilian president and a sketch of Bolsonaro's wife Michelle. Facebook and Instagram pictures of the delegation's visit show the president, his wife, and Britto painting the sketch.
The Brazilian delegation's four-day visit to South Florida included stops at Donal Trump's Mar-a-Lago Club, U.S. Southern Command, the Miami Dade College medical campus, the Hilton Miami Downtown, and the InterContinental Miami. In recent days, Bolsonaro's press secretary, Fábio Wajngarten; Brazil's ambassador to the United States, Nestor Forster; and Bolsonaro's lawyer Karina Kufa have tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. Bolsonaro has said he tested negative but will reportedly undergo a second test.
It's unclear if Forster and Wajngarten were present for the visit to Britto's studio. But a picture on Kufa's Instagram account shows she was at the studio and in close proximity to Britto.
View this post on Instagram
Hoje foi dia de visitar a galeria do @romerobritto. Além de conhecer um lugar fantástico, cheio de energia boa, ganhei dois lindos presentes! Qdo vc conhece o artista compreende a fundo a obra. A alma do @romerobritto é assim, toda colorida! Ele pinta o que está no coração. ??????????????????????????
An email sent Friday from the Wynwood Business Improvement District (BID) to business and property owners says Bolsonaro and his staff visited parts of downtown Miami, Edgewater, and Wynwood.
"Government officials believe the potential exposure to Wynwood has been isolated to a particular business visited on Sunday (3/8) whose employee(s) are under self-quarantine," the email stated.
New Times yesterday afternoon left a message with staff at Britto's studio and this morning emailed a lawyer who represented Britto in a 2015 lawsuit. Someone who answered the phone at Britto's studio today declined to provide any comment. Attempts to reach Britto by phone were unsuccessful.
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Several South Florida politicians have self-quarantined and been tested for COVID-19 following contact with the Brazilian delegation. Miami Mayor Francis Suarez tested positive, and several elected officials and administrators in the city were tested as a precaution. Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez and Florida Sen. Rick Scott voluntarily self-quarantined after attending a meeting in downtown Miami where Wajngarten was present. Gimenez says he later tested negative.
President Trump — a part-time Florida man — and Vice President Mike Pence were exposed to several people carrying the novel coronavirus during the Bolsonaro dinner at Mar-a-Lago, the Miami Herald reports.
At first, Trump said he wasn't worried, and the White House initially claimed the president and vice president didn't need to be tested. Trump later got tested after speaking with his physician, and his results came back negative, news outlets reported Saturday.
Reuters reports that Bolsonaro addressed the nation Thursday and called on his supporters to cancel planned weekend marches to avoid spreading the disease. But yesterday, Bolsonaro drew criticism for participating in demonstrations, taking selfies with supporters, and encouraging large gatherings against the advice of medical professionals.