The chances of a Bolsonaro impeachment

. Feb 27, 2020
The chances of a Bolsonaro impeachment Photo: Isac Nóbrega/PR

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We’re covering the calls for a Bolsonaro impeachment (and the actual chances of that happening now). The markets’ dreadful Ash Wednesday. And a new setback for Vale.

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Bolsonaro commits an impeachable offense. But will anything happen?

Jair Bolsonaro’s latest social media debacle has exposed just how politically isolated he has become in Brasília.

After sharing videos promoting an anti-Congress, pro-military street demonstration, the president received attacks from all ends of the political spectrum, with the country&#8217;s longest-serving Supreme Court justice stopping just short of saying Mr. Bolsonaro committed an impeachable offense. Justice Celso de Mello said the move &#8220;shows the undignified vision of someone who is not up to the role of his office.&#8221;</p> <p><strong>Why it matters. </strong>This latest crisis could, at the very least, jeopardize the reforms backed by Economy Minister Paulo Guedes. At the worst, they could trigger an unpredictable institutional crisis.</p> <p><strong>Impeachment?</strong> Social democratic congressman <a href="">Alexandre Frota</a>—a former ally of the president&#8217;s—says he will file an impeachment request against Mr. Bolsonaro. He will base his request on <a href="">Article 85 of the Constitution</a>, which forbids the president to commit acts that threaten &#8220;the free exercise of the power of the Legislative branch.&#8221;</p> <p>House Speaker Rodrigo Maia holds the power to initiate an impeachment process. But his comments on the matter—while disapproving of Mr. Bolsonaro—allow no indication of how he will act.</p> <p><strong>Left not interested. </strong>Interestingly, the opposition that is calling for impeachment largely comes from the center and elsewhere on the right-wing; left-wing parties have been nonchalant about the whole thing. They scheduled a joint meeting for next week only to discuss collective moves, but have already said an impeachment process is not on their radar.</p> <p><strong>Risks.</strong> It seems unlikely that Congress would launch impeachment proceedings against Jair Bolsonaro. For one, the president has conserved a sizable core group of supporters, estimated at just over one-third of the electorate. Also, Mr. Bolsonaro&#8217;s administration is now teeming with high-ranking military officers, some of whom have shown sympathy for coup-mongering in the past, as is the case of his VP Hamilton Mourão. Trying to oust Mr. Bolsonaro could spark a reaction from these sectors—which are already openly lashing out at Congress and the Supreme Court.</p> <p><strong>Press.</strong> It is telling that all three major lnational newspapers in Brazil have firmly called out the president. So far, they had been tolerating the administration, in the name of Mr. Guedes&#8217; economic agenda.</p> <ul><li><a href=""><strong>Folha de S.Paulo</strong></a><strong>:</strong> &#8220;Perhaps only the fear of an impeachment process could control [the president&#8217;s] dangerous adventure.&#8221;</li><li><a href=",o-presidente-e-os-golpistas,70003211411"><strong>Estado de S.Paulo</strong></a><strong>: </strong>&#8220;It&#8217;s likely that Bolsonaro supporters will continue testing the limits of democracy—and it is up to the institutions to stop them from going further than bravado.&#8221;</li><li><a href=""><strong>O Globo</strong></a><strong>:</strong> &#8220;Bolsonaro attacks the Constitution. It is up to Congress, to the Justice system, and to the republican powers to stop the advances of the Executive branch.&#8221;</li></ul> <hr class="wp-block-separator"/> <h2>Post-Carnival markets rattled by confirmed coronavirus case&nbsp;</h2> <p>In Brazil, it is customary to say that the year starts after Carnival ends. In the case of 2020, the year started in the worst possible way. While Brazilian markets were closed for Carnival, the world recorded massive losses due to growing fears of a coronavirus pandemic—and they were felt on Ash Wednesday, as Brazil <a href="">confirmed Latin America&#8217;s first Covid-19 infection</a>. To make matters worse, President Jair Bolsonaro sparked a new political crisis that could jeopardize the country&#8217;s reform agenda.</p> <p><strong>By the numbers.</strong> The stock market benchmark index dropped 7 percent yesterday—its worst performance in three years—with Brazilian listed companies losing a combined BRL 290 billion in market value. The impact was particularly felt among tourism, transportation, and commodity companies. The U.S. Dollar also reached a new historic nominal high against the Brazilian Real, at USD 1 : BRL 4.44.</p> <div class="flourish-embed flourish-chart" data-src="visualisation/1462530"><script src=""></script></div> <p><strong>Why it matters.</strong> Until last week, markets had regarded the coronavirus outbreak as an overwhelmingly Chinese problem. But the explosion of cases in other countries indicates that the impacts on the global economy will be far more severe than initially thought. That is bad news for emerging economies such as Brazil.</p> <p><strong>External shocks.</strong> The biggest problem for the Brazilian economy could be a lack of supplies from countries such as China.</p> <p><strong>Currency.</strong> To soften the landing of the Brazilian currency, the Central Bank announced an emergency swap auction of USD 500 million yesterday. Today, the bank will auction another USD 1 billion.</p> <p><strong>Pessimism.</strong> On Wednesday, the Central Bank published its latest Focus Report—a weekly survey with top-rated investment companies on Brazil&#8217;s economic outlook. Once again, investors toned down their growth expectations for Brazil, from 2.23 to 2.2 percent. It may not seem like much, but growth expectations have now lost 0.1 percentage points since February 3.</p> <div class="flourish-embed flourish-chart" data-src="visualisation/1192957"><script src=""></script></div> <hr class="wp-block-separator"/> <h2>Vale iron ore ship could sink off Northeast coast</h2> <figure class="wp-block-image"><img loading="lazy" width="1024" height="778" src="" alt="Vale iron ore ship could sink off Northeast coast" class="wp-image-32077" srcset=" 1024w, 300w, 768w, 610w, 1600w" sizes="(max-width: 1024px) 100vw, 1024px" /></figure> <p>Mining giant Vale confirmed on Wednesday that the ship MV Stellar Banner, loaded with iron ore, suffered damage to its bow after leaving the Ponta da Madeira Maritime Terminal on the coast of the Maranhão state. An incident occurred on Monday night, when the crew identified two leaks on the ship. The Brazilian Navy has opened up an investigation and is checking for potential environmental risks.</p> <p><strong>The ship.</strong> The MV Stellar Banner belongs in the &#8220;Very Large Ore Carriers&#8221; category, being able to transport up to 400,000 tons of cargo. Vale, however, did not disclose exactly how much iron ore is on board. The vessel was heading to Qingdao, China, where it was supposed to arrive on April 5. Vale says the 20 crew members were evacuated—and that it is trying to both prevent the ship from sinking and to save the cargo.</p> <p><strong>Why it matters.</strong> Vale is coming off a dreadful 2019—posting a net loss of BRL 6.7 billion (USD 1.68 billion) in the aftermath of the Brumadinho dam tragedy (which killed 270 people).</p> <hr class="wp-block-separator"/> <h2>What else you need to know today</h2> <ul><li><strong>Coronavirus.</strong> After Brazil confirmed Latin America&#8217;s first coronavirus infection, doctors have requested the Health Ministry change its screening protocols. People are reportedly being released from hospitals without testing for Covid-19 when they do not have a fever. These patients are only tested if they have contact with people infected by the coronavirus.&nbsp;&nbsp;</li><li><strong>2020 elections.</strong> A couple of weeks ago, lawyer Karina Kufa—who serves as treasurer of Jair Bolsonaro&#8217;s Alliance for Brazil—<a href="">said the party had amassed</a> the near-500,000 signatures it needs to have its formal registration recognized by electoral courts. But reality has been more difficult. The party tried to come up with ways to speed up the process of notarizing the signatures, but states are sticking with traditional (and slower) processes. The Alliance for Brazil party has until April 4 to conclude its foundation process if it is to take part in the 2020 municipal elections.</li><li><strong>Police strike.</strong> The <a href="">illegal police strike</a> in the state of Ceará continues. The Defense Ministry sent troops to the state last week to help with law enforcement duties and expects the situation to become normal again by tomorrow, when the deadline for the presence of these auxiliary troops ends. According to the government, there is no plan to extend the deadline. Between February 19 and 26, Ceará recorded an average of 25 murders per day. President Bolsonaro has scheduled meetings this morning with Defense Minister Fernando Azevedo and Justice Minister Sergio Moro.&nbsp;</li><li><strong>Bookings.</strong> The hospitality industry has suffered a lot from Brazil&#8217;s enduring economic sluggishness. But according to new data, the sector finally posted (some) positive numbers in 2019 after four negative years. Hotels in 11 state capitals recorded an average real increase in day rates of 5.5 percent. Still, the rising fares are not enough to compensate for the accumulated losses—in some regions, today&#8217;s fares are 16 percent below 2014 levels.

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