Like a president in a candy shop

This week, Brazilian social media burst into frenzy after reports appeared to suggest that the Jair Bolsonaro presidency had spent BRL 15.6 million (USD 2.8 million) on tins of condensed milk in 2020 alone. The sweet treat has become emblematic of the current administration, after it surfaced that the president regularly eats it for breakfast, poured over bread rolls.

Other confusing figures appeared, such as BRL 2.2 million on chewing gum, BRL 8.9 million on chocolate, and over BRL 31 million on soda.

However, the initial reports — which essentially suggested President Bolsonaro himself had been stocking his shelves with almost USD 8,000 worth of condensed milk every day — turned out to be partially inaccurate. These figures were in fact the total spending for the entire federal government, with the vast majority being spent on feeding members of Brazil’s Armed Forces.

Regardless, the story struck a chord with everyday Brazilians and resulted in a PR disaster for President Bolsonaro. How indeed could the government spend so much on items considered superfluous, while the country is battling high inflation and even higher unemployment rates?

The president’s congressman son, Eduardo Bolsonaro, posted a somewhat confusing thread attempting to clear up the controversy, suggesting that condensed milk was recommended for soldiers due to being “high in calories.”

Meanwhile, President Bolsonaro himself blasted the reports during a steakhouse luncheon on Wednesday. He said that the “shitty press” should “get fucked” and “shove the condensed milk up their asses.” In a completely unrelated outburst, he then went on to suggest the Covid-19 pandemic may have been “fabricated.”

Indeed, if the government showed the same zeal it has for purchasing sweet dairy treats on securing coronavirus vaccines for the population, the PR spin for President Bolsonaro could have been much more favorable.