Controversy pushes Jair Bolsonaro’s approval ratings down

. Sep 02, 2019
President Bolsonaro's approval ratings inflatable doll behind the flag at the Toffoli Impeachment demonstration President Bolsonaro's inflatable doll during demonstration

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Good morning! Jair Bolsonaro’s approval ratings took a dip over the past two months. The São Francisco River Integration Project succumbs to political agendas. After meeting with Trump, Brazil elevates ethanol import quotas. A new documentary about Dilma Rousseff’s impeachment. (This newsletter is for platinum subscribers only. Become one now!)

Controversy pushes Jair Bolsonaro’s approval ratings down

Datafolha, Brazil’s most respected pollster, published its latest opinion poll today on Jair Bolsonaro’s administration—showing

that the president&#8217;s rejection ratings have jumped from 33 to 38% from July. By far, Mr. Bolsonaro is the least popular among presidents during their first years in office (Fernando Henrique Cardoso, who comes second, was rejected by only 15% of voters). These results confirm a negative trend for the president, already <a href="">detected in polls by other institutes</a>.</p> <div class="flourish-embed" data-src="visualisation/640258"></div><script src=""></script> <p><strong>Why it matters.</strong> The numbers are an indictment of Mr. Bolsonaro&#8217;s demeanor. Fifty-five percent of Brazilians say they can never, or hardly ever, trust the president. And the share of voters with positive expectations for his administration dropped from 59% in April to 45% now. More importantly, the president has lost support among wealthier voters—one of his core group of followers. Meanwhile, his plan of &#8220;stealing&#8221; the Northeast from leftist influence seems doomed—his rejection rating there is now at 52%.</p> <div class="flourish-embed" data-src="visualisation/640274"></div><script src=""></script> <p><strong>Escalating rhetoric.</strong> Over the first six months of Mr. Bolsonaro&#8217;s term, the electorate seemed split into three equal groups: those who hated the president, those who loved him, and voters on the fence. But over the past two months, Mr. Bolsonaro has radicalized his rhetoric, insulting governors from the Northeast, suggesting his son to the U.S. ambassador job, and trying to interfere in accountability institutions.</p> <p><strong>Amazon.</strong> Over the past weeks, the government has dealt with Brazil&#8217;s worst international crisis in years—sparked by the rise in Amazon fires. For 51% of voters, the president&#8217;s handling of the issue was &#8220;bad or terrible.&#8221;</p> <p><strong>Bolsonaro&#8217;s approval ratings in a nutshell.</strong> Mr. Bolsonaro&#8217;s polarizing demeanor helped him provide an opposition to the Workers&#8217; Party in 2018 but, as more center-right candidates begin to arise (such as São Paulo Governor João Doria), the president will have to speak to those outside of his social bubble if he wants to remain <em>the </em>conservative option come the 2022 election.</p> <hr class="wp-block-separator"/> <h2>How political agendas compromise one of Brazil&#8217;s biggest infrastructure projects ever</h2> <p>A report by <em>Folha de S.Paulo</em> <a href="">shows</a> how the billion-dollar São Francisco River Integration Project is withering away in the semi-arid parts of Brazil&#8217;s Northeast, the country&#8217;s poorest area. The project was meant to benefit over 12m people who would, for the first time, have constant access to water. But the federal government rushed to inaugurate parts of it before the end of former President Michel Temer&#8217;s term. The result is a structure close to collapse. Five months ago, the National Water Agency recommended the water supply be shut down.</p> <p><strong>Why it matters.</strong> The Northeast drought is a natural phenomenon that has cursed generations of Brazilians to poverty. The integration of the São Francisco River—a system of canals to take water inland—has been thought of since the times of Colonial Brazil as a way to fight extreme poverty and allow agriculture in the semi-arid region. The first project was made by Emperor Dom Pedro II, in the late 1800s, but the works would only be inaugurated in March 2017, over 170 years after being conceived. It worked well, but just for about a year.</p> <p><strong>São Francisco.</strong> Across its 2,800 km, the São Francisco River crosses five Brazilian states and its basin (with 168 tributaries) spans over 640,000 sq km (an area similar to the size of France). It represents 70% of the drinkable water supply in the Northeast.</p> <figure class="wp-block-image"><img loading="lazy" width="1024" height="825" src="é-onde-essa-obra-chegou.1-1024x825.png" alt="São Francisco River Integration Project" class="wp-image-23249" srcset="é-onde-essa-obra-chegou.1-1024x825.png 1024w,é-onde-essa-obra-chegou.1-300x242.png 300w,é-onde-essa-obra-chegou.1-768x619.png 768w,é-onde-essa-obra-chegou.1-610x492.png 610w,é-onde-essa-obra-chegou.1.png 1800w" sizes="(max-width: 1024px) 100vw, 1024px" /></figure> <hr class="wp-block-separator"/> <h2>Brazil raises quotas for tariff-free ethanol from the U.S.</h2> <p>After a series of trade talks—and a meeting between Foreign Minister Ernesto Araújo and Congressman Eduardo Bolsonaro with U.S. President Donald Trump—the Brazilian government decided to raise import quotas for tariff-free American ethanol to 750m liters per year (from 600m). Anything above that is subjected to 20% in tariffs. The move represents BRL 270m in tax waivers.</p> <p><strong>Why it matters.</strong> Sugar producers want more access to the U.S. market, and say that Brazil shouldn&#8217;t have been so flexible without receiving anything in return from Washington. Nevertheless, producers celebrated the move as a win—as the new quotas (to be valid for one year) will only be renewed if the U.S. agrees to open its market to Brazilian sugar. Meanwhile, biofuel producers called the move &#8220;unnecessary,&#8221; as Brazil doesn&#8217;t depend on imports for its ethanol supply.</p> <p><strong>Ambassador Eduardo.</strong> The government wants to use this latest meeting of Eduardo Bolsonaro in the Oval Office to vouch for him as the new Brazilian ambassador to the U.S. The move has been criticized by many political groups, and Senate consultants said the law doesn&#8217;t allow the president to name his own son for the job.</p> <hr class="wp-block-separator"/> <h2>What else you need to know today</h2> <p><strong>Bolsonaro. </strong>President Bolsonaro will undergo surgery on Sunday. It will be his fourth since September 6, 2018, when he was stabbed in an assassination attempt. This new surgery is to remove a hernia caused by other surgical interventions—and his recovery should take 10 days.</p> <p><strong>Argentina.</strong> Argentina&#8217;s Central Bank imposed limits on the purchase of foreign currencies as a way to control the devaluation of the Argentinian Peso. The decision even affects big exporters and importers, which will need special authorizations in order to make international wire transfers. Not interfering with the exchange rate had been a campaign promise of President Mauricio Macri—who is set to lose the race against his Kirchnerist opponent next month.</p> <p><strong>2020 election.</strong> The 2020 municipal elections promise to spark power struggles within Jair Bolsonaro&#8217;s Social Liberal Party. Both in Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo, the party will have to decide between a candidate linked to the president&#8217;s clan—or someone more &#8220;independent.&#8221; In Rio, the race could put the president at odds with his son Flávio, as each Bolsonaro supports a different pre-candidate.</p> <p><strong>Impeachment.</strong> The Free Brazil Movement (MBL), a conservative-libertarian group, has launched its own documentary about the impeachment of Dilma Rousseff in 2016. The new movie counters left-wing views in recent productions that call the impeachment a right-wing coup, such as Netflix&#8217;s <em>The Edge of Democracy</em>—which, by the way, has faced heat for doctoring historical images.</p> <p><strong>Aviation.</strong> Azul Airlines will inaugurate a cargo route this month linking Fortaleza and Belém to Cayenne, the capital of French Guiana. The French department had struggled to import Brazilian products ever since Surinam Airways stopped flying to Cayenne last year.

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