Bolsonaro ‘crosses the line’ (again) by joining anti-democratic rally

. Apr 20, 2020
Jair Bolsonaro during anti-democratic rally. Photo: Gabriela Biló Jair Bolsonaro during anti-democratic rally. Photo: Gabriela Biló

This newsletter is for PREMIUM and STANDARD subscribers only. Become one now!

This week, the latest institutional crisis created by Jair Bolsonaro. And the presence of risk factors among Brazilians is an additional worry amid the pandemic.

How far is ‘too far’ for Jair Bolsonaro?

On Sunday, far-right motorcades around Brazil demanded the end of confinement measures,

shouted for the impeachment of state governors, and celebrated the memory of the military dictatorship. Amid the protests, several banners were seen in support of Institutional Act No. 5 (AI-5), a decree enacted by the military regime in 1968 that gave the president powers to dissolve Congress, impeach politicians, and suspend a number of constitutional rights. In Brasília, one anti-democratic demonstration had President Jair Bolsonaro himself as its guest of honor. In a short speech, Mr. Bolsonaro asked Brazilians to &#8220;fight alongside&#8221; him, said the &#8220;mischief is over,&#8221; and that &#8220;there is no more room for negotiations.&#8221;</p> <ul><li>The setting was quite symbolic. Riding in a police car, the president joined a parade that called for a military coup, in front of the Army headquarters in Brasília —&nbsp;on April 19, Brazil&#8217;s Armed Forces Day.</li></ul> <p><strong>Why it matters.</strong> The pandemic is set to get worse in Brazil, and will demand carefully calibrated responses from governments. But the president is doing his best to pile an institutional crisis on top of one of public health. Covid-19 skeptics in the U.S., Mexico, or the UK have backpedaled —&nbsp;but Jair Bolsonaro has only doubled down on his stance.</p> <ul><li>Usually, the strategy of making things as bad as possible in order to destabilize a sitting government is usually reserved for the opposition. In Brazil, it&#8217;s coming from the president himself.</li></ul> <p><strong>Reaction.</strong> The head of the Brazilian Bar Association, Felipe Santa Cruz, said Mr. Bolsonaro has &#8220;crossed the Rubicon&#8221; on Sunday and asked supporters of democracy to unite against despotic moves. Members of Congress and the Supreme Court also publicly condemned the president&#8217;s actions — but once again, they went no further than an angry tweet.&nbsp;</p> <ul><li>But as Brasília correspondent Brenno Grillo confirmed with different sources, the political establishment will not change its strategy, which currently consists of trying to sideline Mr. Bolsonaro from the decision-making process around Covid-19; keeping a minimally functioning relationship between the different branches of government, and reinforcing the message that, should Mr. Bolsonaro continue on the same path, he shall be <a href="">impeached</a>.</li><li>Despite being the least popular president after less than a year and half in power, Mr. Bolsonaro has a solid support group of around one-third of voters — which might not be enough to grant him more power, but could keep him in the presidency for the time being. How society responds to the imminent jump of unemployment rates and collapse of multiple healthcare networks around the country will determine Brazil&#8217;s political fate.</li></ul> <p><strong>Pull and push.</strong> Since taking office, Mr. Bolsonaro has constantly crossed red lines in politics with his extreme antics&nbsp;—&nbsp;always following that behavior with hollow acts of moderation. It has worked so far.</p> <div id="buzzsprout-player-2913238"></div> <script src=";player=small" type="text/javascript" charset="utf-8"></script> <hr class="wp-block-separator"/> <h2>50 million Brazilians present risk factors for Covid-19</h2> <p>According to official figures from Brazil&#8217;s Health Ministry, the coronavirus mortality rate is at 6.4 percent. Determining which percentage of patients will die is a key issue for epidemiologists — but an elusive one given the massive <a href="">underreporting of Covid-19 infections and deaths</a>. People with pre-existing conditions — such as heart or lung issues, diabetes, or high blood pressure — are believed to be more vulnerable to the virus. And a new study by the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation sheds light on the prevalence of these risk patients in Brazil.</p> <ul><li>Using data from the 2013 National Health Survey (PNS), by the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics, experts found that 33 percent of adults in the country have at least one of the risk factors listed above.</li></ul> <div class="flourish-embed flourish-scatter" data-src="visualisation/2003350" data-url=""><script src=""></script></div> <div class="flourish-embed flourish-map" data-src="visualisation/2009079" data-url=""><script src=""></script></div> <p><strong>Why it matters.</strong> President Bolsonaro has defended a so-called “vertical” approach to isolation, which focuses on only confining clusters of the population that are more likely to die or suffer severe damage from Covid-19. Data shows that this triage would be anything but easy.</p> <p><strong>Tip of the iceberg.</strong> Alarming as the study may be, the actual numbers might be even worse. &#8220;Poorer populations with reduced access to healthcare only seek hospitals after symptoms have started to show. Meaning that even more people might present risk factors without knowing it,&#8221; says Celia Landmann Szwarcwald, who coordinated the PNS.</p> <p><strong>Not an old man&#8217;s disease.</strong> Last week, our Weekly Report showed that <a href="">one-quarter of coronavirus deaths</a> registered at the time were among people under 60 with no pre-existing conditions.</p> <ul><li>According to data from São Paulo&#8217;s City Hall, people aged between 20 and 49 make up the majority of new confirmed and suspected infections in São Paulo (62 and 61 percent, respectively). That is explained by the fact that young adults comprise the lion&#8217;s share of the workforce in external activities, making them more exposed to the virus.</li></ul> <p><strong>Collapse. </strong>As editor Euan Marshall wrote this weekend, two Brazilian states have declared a <a href="">complete collapse of their health systems</a>, many more are expected to follow as the country&#8217;s Covid-19 curve increases.</p> <hr class="wp-block-separator"/> <h2>Markets</h2> <p>The Q1 2020 earnings season started with disappointing numbers, as expected. That was the case with the labor-intensive construction sector, which posted mixed results. One of Brazil&#8217;s top 10 companies in the segment, Tenda underwhelmed with a 57-percent drop in project launches and it will likely fail to meet growth targets of 10 to 15 percent. For the second half of 2020, analysts at Mirae Asset expect some recovery in employment levels, growth, and they highlight that the construction sector is expected to receive stimulus from the federal government.</p> <p style="text-align:center"><strong><em>Natália Scalzaretto</em></strong></p> <hr class="wp-block-separator"/> <h2>Jair Bolsonaro&#8217;s approval ratings during the coronavirus crisis</h2> <p>We at <strong>The Brazilian Report</strong> have shown that world leaders around the world have <a href="">gained popularity since the beginning of the coronavirus crisis</a>. Meanwhile, Jair Bolsonaro — who has become the global face of Covid-19 denialism — has seen his approval ratings stall. After a slight fall, they <a href="">returned</a> to levels similar to the pre-crisis period, according to pollster Datafolha. In general, a shock such as a pandemic tends to unify a nation around its leader — but Mr. Bolsonaro has shown that, even in times like this, he will continue to pander exclusively to his hardcore supporters.</p> <div class="flourish-embed flourish-chart" data-src="visualisation/2008021" data-url=""><script src=""></script></div> <hr class="wp-block-separator"/> <h2>Looking ahead</h2> <ul><li><strong>Labor.</strong> The so-called &#8220;Green and Yellow Work Contract,&#8221; the government&#8217;s program to encourage job creation for people under 29 and over 55 years old, is set to expire today without a Senate vote. The decision not to vote on the measure was agreed between party whips, in response to Mr. Bolsonaro’s recent attacks against House Speaker Rodrigo Maia. On Sunday, Senate President Davi Alcolumbre suggested that the government should re-issue the provisional decree —&nbsp;but that would be unconstitutional.</li><li><strong>New minister.</strong> On Thursday, <a href="">Jair Bolsonaro fired Luiz Henrique Mandetta</a> from the Health Minister position (more below). Oncologist and consultant Nelson Teich was named for the job, and will now embark on his first full week of work. The new minister takes office as the number of coronavirus infections and deaths (currently at 38,654 and 2,462, respectively) is set to skyrocket. Among his biggest challenges is Brazil&#8217;s lack of testing, which causes the country to <a href="">fly blind amid the pandemic</a>.</li><li><strong>Loans.</strong> Congress is set to vote this week on a bill that would force companies with owners&#8217; equity of more than BRL 1 billion (USD 191 million) to loan 10 percent of their net profits over the past 12 months to the government&#8217;s Covid-19 effort. Business associations are lobbying against the move, saying it would cripple their financial health and force many to divest in order to comply with the compulsory loan. They even accuse the proposal of being confiscatory, as sums are never returned — or the matter ends up in court.</li><li><strong>Aviation.</strong> The pandemic has put airlines and plane manufacturers in such a dire situation that it could compromise <a href="">Boeing&#8217;s purchase of Embraer</a>, agreed back in 2018. &#8220;Boeing&#8217;s priority has shifted from the takeover to its own survival,&#8221; said one source quoted by <em>InfoMoney</em>. Already in crisis due to safety issues with its Boeing 737 Max planes — which caused two crashes that killed 346 people — the American company <a href="">is waiting for USD 60 billion in government aid</a> to the aerospace industry to survive the crisis.</li></ul> <hr class="wp-block-separator"/> <h2>In case you missed it</h2> <ul><li><strong>Why Mandetta was fired.</strong> Tensions between President Bolsonaro and Luiz Henrique Mandetta had been brewing for weeks — with each supporting completely opposite strategies to deal with the pandemic. The former minister is in favor of broad social isolation, while the president wants to switch the economy back on, urging people to return to work despite public health concerns. Despite being praised for his command during the pandemic, Mr. Mandetta <a href="">leaves an unremarkable legacy</a>, shows reporter Brenno Grillo.</li><li><strong>States.</strong> In a 431-70 vote, Brazil&#8217;s lower house passed a bill granting financial aid to states and forcing the federal government to compensate for their loss in tax revenue. The vote is yet another defeat for Economy Minister Paulo Guedes, who called the proposal a &#8220;fiscal bomb,&#8221; with an estimated cost of BRL 89 billion — more than double of what the Economy Ministry was willing to spend. Mr. Guedes also criticized the lack of conditions placed on state governors, saying the bill hands them a &#8220;blank check.&#8221;</li><li><strong>Bailout.</strong> The federal government is negotiating with private banks, investment funds, and the National Development Bank (BNDES) to launch a rescue plan of at least BRL 48 billion (USD 9.2 billion) to bail out big companies hit hard by the Covid-19 crisis. The list of benefitted firms is expected to be dominated by airlines, energy suppliers, and major retailers.</li><li><strong>Quarantine.</strong> The Supreme Court ruled that mayors and governors have the power to enact social isolation measures within their constituencies — and that the federal government cannot interfere. The decision comes after multiple threats from President Bolsonaro to sign a decree lifting all restrictive measures adopted by local administrations. Moreover, justices ruled that mayors and governors hold the jurisdiction to define which services are deemed &#8220;essential,&#8221; not the president.

Read the full story NOW!

Our content is protected by copyright. Want to republish The Brazilian Report? Email us at