Bolsonaro’s popularity boost tied to temporary benefit

. Sep 25, 2020
Bolsonaro's approval numbers tied to temporary benefit President Bolsonaro. Photo: Carolina Antunes/PR

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Today, Bolsonaro faces a dilemma following new polls. Brazil to lift restrictions on foreign nationals. And a new chapter of Rio’s political debacle.

Bolsonaro’s approval reaches new heights

A new poll by renowned pollster Ibope shows that

40 percent of Brazilians believe Jair Bolsonaro is doing a &#8216;good or great&#8217; job as president. This was the first nationwide poll carried out in Brazil through in-person interviews since the pandemic started — which makes it more comparable to surveys from before March 2020.&nbsp;</p> <div class="flourish-embed flourish-chart" data-src="visualisation/3837137" data-url="" aria-label=""><script src=""></script></div> <p><strong>Why it matters.</strong> A boost in his approval ratings certainly gives the president <a href="">more political muscle</a> — and the timing is great for him. Mr. Bolsonaro is facing a <a href="">potentially embarrassing situation</a>: the Supreme Court will decide whether or not he will be allowed to testify in writing in an investigation into his alleged illegal interference with the Federal Police.&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>Emergency aid.</strong> Once again, polls show how the BRL 600 emergency aid program has boosted the president&#8217;s popularity. His approval skyrocketed among poorer and less-educated voters —&nbsp;while stagnating among college-educated people and those who earn at least BRL 5,000 a month (USD 907).</p> <ul><li>Remember that adage by Bill Clinton&#8217;s advisor James Carville, &#8220;it&#8217;s the economy, stupid&#8221;? In a country as unequal as Brazil, providing millions of poor people with purchasing power to cater to their basic needs works wonders for presidents. It <a href="">helped Lula</a>, and it is now helping Mr. Bolsonaro.</li></ul> <div class="flourish-embed flourish-chart" data-src="visualisation/3837682" data-url="" aria-label=""><script src=""></script></div> <div class="flourish-embed flourish-chart" data-src="visualisation/3837744" data-url="" aria-label=""><script src=""></script></div> <p><strong>Yes, but … </strong>Interviews were made <em>before</em> the benefit was halved to BRL 300. For the country’s poorest 10 percent, the cut could lead to an immediate <a href="">44-percent loss in purchasing power</a>.&nbsp;</p> <ul><li>The progression of Mr. Bolsonaro&#8217;s approval ratings will be worth monitoring until the end of the year, when the emergency benefit is set to end outright. And it puts pressure on the administration to create a new cash-transfer program to prevent tens of millions from falling below the poverty line in 2021.</li><li>But the budgetary constraints that forced the government to slash the emergency aid will persist. The Economy Ministry foresees a BRL 861-billion deficit for this year —&nbsp;about 12 percent of the GDP.</li></ul> <p><strong>Approval? </strong>A total of 51 percent of voters say they don&#8217;t trust the president, further suggesting that the rise in his popularity is less on his personal allure and more to do with emergency aid payments.</p> <hr class="wp-block-separator"/> <h2>Government allows foreigners back into Brazil</h2> <p>The Brazilian government has lifted restrictions on the entry of foreign nationals at every airport in the country — revoking a March rule barring it in six states. A 30-day restriction remains for the entry of foreigners by land and sea. Venezuelan citizens, however, are granted an exception due to humanitarian reasons.</p> <p><strong>Why it matters.</strong> Brazil is lifting restrictions as many countries experience a second wave of coronavirus infections — raising uncertainty about the progression of the pandemic.</p> <p><strong>Restrictions.</strong> That kind of uncertainty is already being observed in Brazil — namely in the state of Amazonas, which was the first in the country to experience a full-scale collapse of its healthcare system. Authorities had lifted restrictions on commerce and tourist locations, but infection curves have increased in recent weeks —&nbsp;forcing the state government to shut down bars, public events, and resorts.</p> <hr class="wp-block-separator"/> <h2>Rio Mayor declared ineligible for office</h2> <p>One day after the Rio de Janeiro State Congress moved forward with its impeachment process against Governor Wilson Witzel, the mayor of the city of Rio de Janeiro was declared ineligible for office. A state electoral court found Marcelo Crivella guilty of &#8220;abuse of economic power,&#8221; an electoral crime — and could suspend his political rights for eight years.</p> <ul><li>In 2018, the mayor used a City Hall event to canvass votes for his son, who launched an unsuccessful bid for Congress.</li></ul> <p><strong>Why it matters.</strong> The decision comes 52 days before the November 15 municipal elections, when Mr. Crivella will fight for re-election (with the veiled support of the Bolsonaro family).</p> <p><strong>What happens now.</strong> Mr. Crivella will probably be able to run in November, as he will be entitled to multiple appeals until the case reaches the Superior Electoral Court and Supreme Court — a process that could take years.</p> <p><strong>Rio&#8217;s mayoral race.</strong> Rejected by 75 percent of the Rio electorate, the incumbent Mr. Crivella could fail to make it to the runoff stage altogether. According to the latest polls, he is tied for second place in a race being led by former Mayor Eduardo Paes — who is facing corruption charges.</p> <iframe src="" width="100%" height="232" frameborder="0" allowtransparency="true" allow="encrypted-media"></iframe> <hr class="wp-block-separator"/> <h2>What else you need to know today</h2> <ul><li><strong>Vaccine.</strong> The Brazilian federal government announced it would set aside BRL 2.5 billion (USD 453 million) to join the COVAX Facility, a worldwide initiative that brings together governments and manufacturers to ensure future Covid-19 vaccines reach those in greatest need, whoever they are and wherever they live. The government says the move will allow the country to &#8220;guarantee the immunization of 10 percent of the population by the end of 2021&#8221; when a vaccine is available.</li><li><strong>Aviation. </strong>The first <a href="">Gripen fighter jet</a> to be delivered by Swedish manufacturer Saab to the Brazilian Air Force made its maiden flight yesterday —&nbsp;a 1-hour journey between Santa Catarina and São Paulo. Back in 2014, Brazil bought 36 Gripen jets — deliveries shall happen between 2021 and 2026.</li><li><strong>Oil and gas. </strong>Supreme Court Chief Justice Luiz Fux scheduled for September 30 a trial on whether or not state-controlled oil giant Petrobras can slice up its assets into multiple subsidiaries to speed up their privatization. Senate President Davi Alcolumbre says the firm plans to circumvent Congress&#8217; prerogative to block privatizations. As <a href="">we explained on Wednesday</a>, the sale of refineries is a cornerstone of Petrobras&#8217; divestments plan —&nbsp;suspending it would delay the company&#8217;s deleveraging.</li><li><strong>Environment 1.</strong> A Federal Police investigation concluded that the fires responsible for destroying 25,000 hectares of the <a href="">Pantanal wetlands</a> were started within four large properties in the Corumbá region, close to the Bolivian border. According to Brazil&#8217;s Institute of Geography and Statistics, the country lost over 8 percent of its natural vegetation between 2000 and 2018 alone — an area almost the size of Spain.</li><li><strong>Environment 2.</strong> Nubank became the first bank in Brazil or Mexico to neutralize all or its carbon emissions, after being founded in 2013. The company will support three projects to offset 4,300 tons of carbon dioxide. Nubank pointed out that digital banks are responsible for fewer emissions than traditional ones. Days after Nubank&#8217;s announcement, investment bank BTG Pactual said it offset 13,000 tons of carbon dioxide to compensate for its 2019 emissions.</li><li><strong>New book. </strong>Former Health Minister Luiz Henrique Mandetta launches his new <a href=",em-livro-mandetta-acusa-bolsonaro-de-negacionismo,70003451722">book</a> today: &#8220;A patient called Brazil,&#8221; in which he gives his perspective on the last 87 days of his time as a member of the Jair Bolsonaro administration. Mr. Mandetta singles out the president&#8217;s Covid-19 denialism as the biggest problem in tackling the pandemic. &#8220;First, he denied the Covid-19&#8217;s severity, calling it &#8216;the sniffles.&#8217; Then, he got mad at the doctor, that is, me. Then, he aimed for a miracle: believing in chloroquine,&#8221; writes the former minister.

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