Bolsonaro clash with governors on roadway shutdowns

Bolsonaro clash with governors on roadway shutdowns
Bolsonaro. Photo: Isac Nóbrega/PR

President Jair Bolsonaro has drafted a provisional decree allowing only the federal government to order the shutdown of airports and roadways. The move has been considered a response to Rio de Janeiro Governor Wilson Witzel, who announced he would close state lines and suspend flights to and from airports in an attempt to reduce the Covid-19 spread.

Several legal experts have considered that many restrictive moves by governors are unconstitutional. During a conference call with business leaders, Mr. Bolsonaro criticized Mr. Witzel’s approach, accusing him of using the coronavirus for political gain. 

As this live blog reported, the government is mulling over the idea of proposing a “state of emergency,” which would be the most drastic measure available to the administration. It could include the suspension of constitutional rights, as well as restrictions on the press and citizens’ right to free movement and freedom of assembly.

“This is a dangerous moment because Jair Bolsonaro—who is only worried about his image—is behind, he has lost control over political narratives and has been perceived by people as negligent. In such situations, authoritarian populists tend to react by radicalizing in order to get back in the game,” said political commentator Carlos Andreazza, on Twitter.

For Bolsonaro, life must go on 

The president has said the outbreak must not interrupt political activity, and has positioned himself against closing down commerce and restaurants. During the call, Mr. Bolsonaro said the country will face “difficult months” and asked business leaders to remain “cool” and keep their “heads on straight.” The provisional decree is set to forbid restrictions to the circulation of workers on basic services. It would also exempt the government from following all the bureaucratic hoops in bidding processes to fast-track the purchase of equipment and inputs to face the pandemic.