Bolsonaro is getting uncomfortably cold as a thousand problems arise

  • + Bolsonaro’s inability to secure a vaccine deal has the population depending on regional leaders.
  • + Bolsonaro’s approval rates continue to decrease though not as sharply as it would be expected. 
  • + Opposition to Bolsonaro emerges as Lula da Silva is cleared from his corruption charges.  
Source: BBC

Why is Bolsonaro’s heat level cold?

Answer: His mishandling of the Covid situation has put Brazil in second place in both the number of cases and deaths.

This is no news, as Brazil’s situation has been bad since the very beginning of the pandemic. However, Bolsorano’s maladministration has reached whole new levels in these past months. 

At the moment, Brazil is living through the worst moments of the pandemic with death tolls around 2000 per day and the total collapse of hospitals in several states. In addition to this, in the past week several cities were forced to stop the vaccination process due to the scarcity of doses. However, Brazilians should be grateful to even have had those doses, as they were not acquired by Bolsonaro’s government, but by Joao Doria, governor of Sao Paulo and Bolsonaro’s main political rival up until now. 

This situation led Congress to create a plan, that will be approved in the upcoming weeks, that will allow states and municipalities to acquire their own vaccines and therefore not be dependent on the federal government. 

However, Bolsonaro has managed to turn this situation to his favour. By establishing that the Congress’ decision stops him from carrying out his presidential duties he outsources all responsibilities. By doing so, Bolsonaro returns to the populist discourse that got him to win the 2018 elections, once again, he portrays the picture of himself as the man standing against the establishment.

This negationist discourse has been successful in keeping the most radical part of the Brazilian electorate engaged. Although during the past months Bolsonaro’s population has been descending, it hasn’t done it as sharply as it might be expected considering the situation. The actual president still maintains about 26% of the electorate. 

However, things might be starting to change for the Brazilian president. It is not only his negationist discourse what is angering the population, but his failure to secure deals with the main vaccine corporations, the collapse in the health system and the cutting off of the welfare package that has let millions of families without a way of livelihood, especially when Bolsonaro tells them to “stop whining”. 

It is true that this situation has been going on for a year. Up until now Bolsonaro has been able to go on with his aggressive speech, actions unchecked, because there was no other alternative in the Brazilian political sphere. However, things are starting to change, and the Brazilian president may soon have to face the consequences of his actions. 

Who is changing Bolsonaro temperature?

Answer: Lula da Silva’s convictions have been quashed, which means there is a clear opposition candidate for the upcoming elections of 2022.

Surprise shook Brazil last week when the former president, Luis Inázio Lula da Silva, was cleared from the graft convictions that landed him in jail in 2018. The announcement caught Bolsonaro and his rightwing populist government by surprise. Lula da Silva’s unexpected return will play a major role on the upcoming 2022 presidential elections and also on politics during the time being. 

Lula’s fall came from his alleged association with the Lava Jato investigation, a corruption case that implicated several politicians and businessmen. Because of this, Lula was blocked from running in the 2018 elections, which paved the road for Bolsonaro’s victory. The convictions for corruption and money laundering were withdrawn last week by one of the Supreme Court judges. This decision has yet to be ratified by the whole court, but at the moment, this new ruling allows the ex-president to run again as candidate in the upcoming elections.

Although Lula da Silva has not formally announced his intention to run for president his public declarations and discourses, most of them attacking Bolsonaro and his government, leave a clear idea of what he might be planning for the near future. 

Undoubtedly, this affects Bolsonaro’s position on the political sphere as he now has to face a rather stronger opposition than before. Within mere hours of Lula’s discourse, charged with criticism against Bolsonaro, the latter appeared at an official event in Brasilia wearing a mask, something he has never done before as he denied their efficiency and downplayed the virus. It is yet to see if he will also decide to get vaccinated after Lula got this shot a few days ago.

In addition to this, the development of events is been closely watched by the business lobby. Businesses were one of Bolsonaro’s main group of supporters for the past elections, on the basis of the free-market economy that he defended. However, his promises haven’t been fulfilled and now they worry that Bolsonaro may seek the extreme right votes in order to win the next elections, something they won’t be particularly happy about. 

Bolsonaro faces a dilemma here. Political discontent is at a very high level and it seems like now the population will have a way of directing that discontent against Bolsonaro by supporting Lula da Silva. Although the latter’s reputation is still affected by the corruption case it is very likely then when having to choose between two evils, they’ll choose the one that has not driven the country into such a desperate situation as the one they are now living. 

What is driving Bolsonaro?

Answer: He wants to keep a steady position as head of the country and present a strong front for the next elections.

Bolsonaro was caught off guard by Lula’s sudden reappearance, and that made his responses to the ex-president’s accusations sloppy. However, Bolsonaro is nothing of the sort, he has proved to be a skilled showman and an expert on winning the population’s approval, and he will show what he is capable of again. 

As a far-right populist, Bolsonaro has shown how good he is playing the game of “us” against “them”. This discourse took him to the presidential palace in 2018 and it’s surely the one he will use again from now on and up until 2022, especially when Lula and his followers play into the role of “them” so well. 

However, it is quite possible that Bolsonaro will have to look for a different strategy than last time if he wants to have a chance of winning the election again. During the pandemic he has prioritized the economy to health, denying the usefulness of lockdowns and the closure of business, since he said the remedy would be worse than the disease. But then again, his policies have not worked, and the Brazilian economy is not going through a good time. Therefore, the image projected by Bolsonaro is that of someone who has sacrificed his citizens for nothing. 

When Bolsonaro came to power, he was boosted by the strong man’s current around the world and entered the group of authoritarian leaders, alongside Erdogan, Putin, Xi Jinping or Trump. However, while some like Putin have been able to play their cards well during the pandemic, Trump and Bolsonaro have not. Trump has already fallen, and Bolsonaro may follow the same path. 

What does this mean for you?

Answer: Bolsonaro has been given a strong incentive to change his policies towards more internationally friendly ones. 

In terms of public health, the fact that Bolsonaro might start taking the pandemic seriously, if only with the intention of gaining support, is a positive change. Especially with the emergence of new variants of COVID, one of them Brazilian, it is essential for the whole world that all countries work together to eradicate the virus. 

In political terms, as already mentioned, Brazil’s population is at a crossroads. If a new candidate does not appear by 2022, Brazilian voters will be forced to choose between two evils. At the moment we do not know that it will tilt the scales more, whether Lula da Silva’s accusations of corruption or Bolsonaro’s mismanagement.

Corruption being one of the main problems for South America, the fact that a person sent to jail for such a scandal, might be elected for a third term in one of the largest countries in the region could mean that the eradication of the problem might be delayed by a few more years. However, Bolsonaro’s authoritarianism is also an issue for the region, which also has to deal with the regime in Venezuela and other concerns of the sort in Ecuador. 

For the rest of the world, Bolsonaro’s fall would mean another blow to the strong man autocratic philosophy. Having Trump been defeated, Bolsonaro is one of the few extremist leaders left. Alongside with this, Bolsonaro’s change of strategy or defeat, could bring Brazil back to the international sphere in terms of the environment protection as it happened with the US going back to the Paris Agreement as soon as the Biden administration kicked off.