‘Devastating’ video could implicate President Bolsonaro

. May 13, 2020
'Devastating' video could implicate President Bolsonaro Outside the presidential palace, Mr. Bolsonaro comments on the investigation into his conduct. Photo: Arianna Fonseca/CNN

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A new video incriminates Jair Bolsonaro, so say those who have seen the footage. How the constant state of crisis is making Brazil a country “for crazies.” And the mysterious Covid-19 drug being tested by the government.

Bolsonaro investigation: the plot thickens

In yesterday’s Daily Report, we said that the testimony given in the probe on whether President Jair Bolsonaro illegally meddled with the Federal Police would not be strong enough to remove him from office, and that new, earth-shattering evidence would be needed. That proof may have arrived, however, with

investigators gaining access to the video recording of an April 22 cabinet meeting, the contents of which are &#8220;devastating&#8221; for the president, according to multiple sources speaking to the local press.</p> <ul><li>&#8220;I won&#8217;t wait for them to f*** my family over. I&#8217;ll change everyone in security. The chief, the minister,&#8221; said Mr. Bolsonaro, according to sources who watched the video.</li></ul> <p><strong>Why it matters.</strong> The video remains sealed for the time being. If the content of the footage is as explosive as suggested, it could spiral the administration into an even deeper crisis. However, it is too soon to call this the &#8220;silver bullet&#8221; to bring down Mr. Bolsonaro —&nbsp;many other scandals over the past 16 months were treated as such and led to nothing.</p> <p><strong>Defense. </strong>The president has told reporters that the words &#8220;investigation&#8221; and &#8220;Federal Police&#8221; were never uttered during the meeting. And that he was talking about his sons&#8217; security detail. However, the first family&#8217;s bodyguards are provided by the Institutional Security Office (GSI), led by his close ally General Augusto Heleno —&nbsp;not the Justice Ministry.</p> <ul><li>Three military cabinet members gave their testimonies on Tuesday. All backed the president, with Gen. Heleno saying on multiple occasions he &#8220;didn&#8217;t remember&#8221; what had transpired during the cabinet meeting.</li></ul> <p><strong>What to make of the video.</strong> According to experts consulted by <strong>The Brazilian Report</strong>, the content of the video will require some interpretation from investigators —&nbsp;which is not uncommon in similar probes. Should the evidence be confirmed as reported, Prosecutor General Augusto Aras will have enough proof to request the president&#8217;s indictment.</p> <p><strong>Tests.</strong> Mr. Bolsonaro also reportedly told his cabinet that he wouldn&#8217;t disclose the &#8220;goddamn coronavirus test,&#8221; arguing it could lead to his impeachment. Mr. Bolsonaro was tested twice in March; he claims both results came back negative but has refused to show proof. Over the past several weeks, Mr. Bolsonaro has met and greeted many supporters. If proven he was infected with Covid-19 during this time, the political —and legal — consequences could be enormous.&nbsp;</p> <ul><li>The government is staging a legal battle with newspaper <em>O Estado de S.Paulo</em> to keep the tests private — a case that has reached the Supreme Court. On Tuesday night, the Solicitor General&#8217;s Office said it had turned the tests over to the court, &#8220;proving that the president has tested negative for the disease.&#8221;</li><li>Mr. Bolsonaro&#8217;s test results are the subject of this week&#8217;s <em>Explaining Brazil</em> podcast. <a href="https://open.spotify.com/episode/5CsyDJltn3eJdmV6TYywb4?si=vHX_bhvJQGC5RKPeR1IAXw">Listen here</a>.&nbsp;</li></ul> <p><strong>Political game.</strong> The government has tried — with a heavy dose of horse-trading — to ensure a 171 whip count in the lower house of Congress (out of 513 seats), enough to block an impeachment or indictment request. The video has raised the price tag for support from the so-called &#8220;<a href="https://brazilian.report/opinion/2018/07/31/brazil-big-center-2018-president/">Big Center</a>,&#8221; a loose coalition of parties that are ready to back any president in exchange for the right Executive positions.</p> <hr class="wp-block-separator"/> <h2>Markets see Brazil as a train wreck</h2> <p>The rumors of &#8220;devastating&#8221; evidence against the president took their toll on the stock market and the Brazilian currency yesterday. But that does not fully explain why Brazilian markets are so rocky, even for current Covid-19 standards. The constant state of political crisis and elevated indebtment levels are making investors flee to more predictable destinations.</p> <p><strong>Why it matters.</strong> The stock market is not the real economy —&nbsp;but fears about investing in Brazil can also cause companies to refrain from placing their bets on a country that seems to jump from one crisis into the next.</p> <p><strong>Swimming naked.</strong> Billionaire Warren Buffett famously said that &#8220;when the tide goes out, you find out who&#8217;s been swimming naked.&#8221; Among 39 emerging markets analyzed by the International Monetary Fund, only Venezuela and Angola had a worse debt-to-GDP ratio than Brazil.</p> <p><strong>Perspectives.</strong> In a note to investors, research firm Gavekal said Brazil’s political situation is “febrile,” highlighting that “[Mr.] Bolsonaro could face impeachment and this is likely to end hopes for fiscal consolidation and reforms.”</p> <p><strong>&#8220;House on fire.&#8221;</strong> With the pandemic expected to balloon public spending, Brazil is likely to face a downgrade to its credit rating and suffer a drop in domestic demand, which may not recover before 2022. “Right now, Brazil is best left to the specialists, crazies, long-term opportunists, and those without other options,” wrote Gavekal analyst Armando Castelar.</p> <hr class="wp-block-separator"/> <h2>Covid-19: Brazil will test mysterious drug on 500 patients</h2> <p>On Monday, the Brazilian government sent a cable to all of its diplomatic posts abroad with information about developments in research for the production of an effective drug against the coronavirus.&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>Breakthrough? </strong>The Science and Technology Ministry says its national research center concluded a trial with around 2,000 existing medicines, and one of them — which showed a 94-percent effectiveness rate during <em>in vitro</em> trials — was selected for the next stage of testing. Now, the mystery drug will be administered to 500 patients.</p> <ul><li>The cable was intended to give diplomats talking points when asked by foreign media outlets about what Brazil is doing to reduce the devastating impact of Covid-19.</li></ul> <p><strong>Context.</strong> Around one month ago, Science and Technology Minister Marcos Pontes announced his department was working with a &#8220;groundbreaking&#8221; drug, but refused to disclose its name —&nbsp;claiming he intended to avoid the public making runs on Brazilian pharmacies.</p> <p><strong>Hush-hush.</strong> The government has not been the least bit transparent regarding this program. Around the world, scientists have thrown themselves into the task of developing an efficient drug or vaccine — but nothing revolutionary has been found so far.&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>Why it matters. </strong>By hinting that Brazil might have <em>the</em> weapon against the virus, but not making any corroborating piece of research available for the scrutiny of the scientific community, the Brazilian government could give people false hope of an imminent cure —&nbsp;which could further lower social isolation rates.</p> <hr class="wp-block-separator"/> <h2>What else you need to know today</h2> <ul><li><strong>New record.</strong> The number of <a href="https://brazilian.report/coronavirus-brazil-live-blog/">Covid-19 deaths</a> reached a new record on Tuesday, as the Health Ministry recorded 881 new casualties in the space of 24 hours —&nbsp;taking the total to 12,400. Meanwhile, the number of confirmed infections reached 177,589, overtaking Germany in total cases. It is a consensus among experts, however, that the figures are understated — as Brazil has tested patients at a rate 33 times smaller than Spain.</li><li><strong>Healthcare.</strong> The number of people dying at home rose 80 percent in April in eight state capitals with saturated healthcare systems. Many of these deaths are from acute problems, such as heart attacks, where patients are unable to receive emergency aid quick enough due to overburdened hospitals and ambulance services. Another factor is that many Brazilians are avoiding the hospital at all costs, due to fear of Covid-19.</li><li><strong>Slavery.</strong> Brazil — the last New World country to abolish slavery —&nbsp;celebrates the 132nd anniversary of abolition today. Click <a href="https://brazilian.report/?s=slavery">here</a> to access our archives on the subject, including a <a href="https://brazilian.report/guide-to-brazil/2019/11/20/beyond-12-years-a-slave-story-luis-gama/">profile of Luís Gama</a> (one of the abolition movement&#8217;s unsung heroes), and a <a href="https://brazilian.report/society/2019/11/28/precisao-documentary-face-modern-slavery-brazil/">documentary on modern slavery</a> scripted by editor-in-chief Gustavo Ribeiro, for the International Labor Organization and Brazil&#8217;s Labor Prosecution Office.</li><li><strong>Press.</strong> Media organizations are experiencing a paradox: audiences are up, but revenue is down, with advertisers withholding spending. That throws Brazil&#8217;s already feeble media environment into <a href="https://brazilian.report/opinion/2020/04/18/covid-19-thrusts-brazil-media-landscape-into-uncertainty/">deeper uncertainty</a>. On Tuesday, several news organizations —&nbsp;including <em>Folha de S.Paulo, Globo,</em> and <em>O Estado de S.Paulo</em> — announced wage cuts of 25 percent. That is not the case at <strong>The Brazilian Report</strong>. We have actually <em>enhanced</em> our reporting crew to continue delivering the best information about Brazil in English.

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