Bolsonaro accuses House Speaker of conspiring against him

bolsonaro speaker
Jair Bolsonaro speaks to CNN Brasil

In an interview with CNN Brasil, President Jair Bolsonaro pulled no punches against House Speaker Rodrigo Maia. The relationship between the two men was never great, but it has worsened since the beginning of the coronavirus crisis. The government is adamantly against a bill that would force the federal government to financially support state administrations without receiving anything in return. Mr. Bolsonaro accused Mr. Maia of wanting to “attack the government” instead of fighting the coronavirus — and ruin the economy in order to destroy his administration.

“[Mr.] Maia must respect me as the head of state,” said the president. “Brazil does not deserve having a Speaker like him. Terrible job.”

On March 24, Brasília correspondent Brenno Grillo reported that behind-the-scenes negotiations for Mr. Bolsonaro’s impeachment process had already begun.

What does Bolsonaro want?

Speaker Maia said the president just wants to diffuse the negative repercussions of firing Health Minister Luiz Henrique Mandetta this afternoon. “The president is pulling an old trick in politics to try and control the narrative,” he responded, also to CNN Brasil. “We defend giving money to states and municipalities because that is where intensive care units are. We have already lost 1,900-plus Brazilians. We need to be responsible and have composure.”

On Mandetta’s side

After Mr. Mandetta was fired, the speaker issued a joint statement with Senate President Davi Alcolumbre thanking Mr. Mandetta for his time in office, tweeting this afternoon on behalf of Brazil’s Congress. Mr. Mandetta’s “dedication, work, competence, and ability to understand the problem we face, his search for solutions based on dialogue with society as a whole, and with Congress. He brought security and leadership, especially during the pandemic.”

Mr. Maia also said the former minister left Brazil’s public health service as “a legacy to care for society.” During President Bolsonaro’s spats with his axed Health Minister, Mr. Maia often came in for criticism from the president’s so-called “digital militia,” which sparked campaigns for his and Mr. Mandetta’s impeachments.