President Jair Bolsonaro and First Lady Michelle Bolsonaro

In this week’s issue: The most important facts of the week. What do Brazilians expect from President Bolsonaro? 

The week in review

  • New president. President Jair Bolsonaro took office on January 1, inaugurating his four-year term. He gave two speeches, one extending an olive branch to Congress, and another filled with attacks on “political correctness” and his opponents. Mr. Bolsonaro’s aggressive campaign antics should be the rule rather than the exception during his presidency.
  • Hard-liners. Besides Mr. Bolsonaro, 27 governors took office
    on the New Year, too. And a big chunk of them took their oath of office promising severe austerity measures and tough-on-crime approaches. None, however, was harder than Rio&#8217;s new governor, Wilson Witzel, who promised shoot-to-kill policing tactics and called for a local version of Guantanamo Bay Prison, considered by <a href="" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Amnesty International</a> as a &#8220;cesspool of human rights abuses.&#8221;<div class="free rcp_restricted 1"><div class="paywall "></div><p> <div class="readmore-cta-block"> <p><strong>Read the full story NOW!</strong></p> <div class="readmore-cta-grid"> <div class="readmore-cta-full"> <a href="" class="button button-green button-full">Start your 7-day free trial</a> </div> <div class="readmore-cta-half"> <a class="button black-text button-full" href="">Login</a> </div> <div class="readmore-cta-half"> <a class="button black-text button-full" href="">Subscribe</a> </div> </div> </div> </p> </div></li> <li><strong>Violence spree.</strong><strong> </strong>Justice Minister Sérgio Moro sent 300 National Security Force troops to the state of Ceará, after the state saw three days of a violence spree caused by the <a href="" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">PCC, the country&#8217;s most powerful criminal organization</a>. The attacks were perpetrated after the local government promised to split up prisoners from the same factions and adopt a harder policy to prevent cell phones from reaching the hands of inmates.</li> <li><strong>Stock market.</strong><strong> </strong>Local investors continue to be excited about the Jair Bolsonaro presidency, pushing the São Paulo stock market index to historic levels on back-to-back days (despite a negative trend on international markets). But the president&#8217;s comment that he may review the Embraer-Boeing merger deal sent some shockwaves through the markets, causing shares of the Brazilian planemaker to drop 5% on Friday.</li> <li><strong>Congressional races.</strong><strong> </strong>The new Congress takes office next month, but negotiations around who is going to be the next House Speaker and Senate President are at full throttle. In the House, the president&#8217;s party has reached a deal to back incumbent Congressman Rodrigo Maia, the frontrunner. In the Senate, though, the party has launched its own candidate against <a href="" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">veteran Renan Calheiros</a>, the favorite. Despite a long history of corruption scandals, Mr. Calheiros has proven to be a powerful senator &#8211; and an enemy who can create trouble for an administration when he wants to.</li> <li><strong>New logo.</strong><strong> </strong>President Jair Bolsonaro launched the new logo and slogan of the federal government. Michel Temer&#8217;s &#8220;Order and Progress&#8221; gets replaced by &#8220;Brazil, Beloved Fatherland&#8221; (<em>Pátria Amada Brasil</em>).</li> </ul> <p><img class="aligncenter size-full wp-image-16900" src="" alt="" width="590" height="332" srcset=" 590w, 300w" sizes="(max-width: 590px) 100vw, 590px" /></p> <p><img class="size-full wp-image-13948 aligncenter" src="" alt="" width="590" height="332" /></p> <hr /> <h2>What do Brazilians expect from President Bolsonaro?</h2> <p>Brazil&#8217;s new President Jair Bolsonaro has taken over a polarized country with a sluggish economy. He promised to implement harsh austerity measures and &#8220;rescue&#8221; Brazil from its hole. But economic issues are not among voters&#8217; top priorities for the new government, according to a recent survey by Paraná Pesquisas.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <hr /> <p><img class="aligncenter size-full wp-image-16899" src="" alt="" width="1200" height="472" srcset=" 1200w, 300w, 768w, 1024w, 610w" sizes="(max-width: 1200px) 100vw, 1200px" /></p> <hr /> <h2>A week of much confusion for the new government</h2> <p>It is still very early to assess anything about the Jair Bolsonaro presidency, inaugurated a mere four days ago. But the first signs could be construed as red flags, with government officials contradicting themselves when talking about critical issues such as taxation, pension reforms, and defense. Such episodes, which have been numerous in such a small space of time, are typical of an administration that mixes inexperience and voluntaryism.</p> <p>In less than 12 hours, President Bolsonaro gave three statements that sent shockwaves through the markets and surprised members of his administration. The first was about the pension reform. Mr. Bolsonaro said he&#8217;ll propose a minimum retirement age of 62 for men and 57 for women. Then, he said he had signed a decree raising taxes on financial transactions. Finally, he declared he could impose conditions to the Embraer-Boeing merger, causing the planemaker&#8217;s stock to crash.</p> <p>Hours before these statements, the president had held his first meeting with cabinet members. Economy Minister Paulo Guedes defended a robust pension reform, to which the president reportedly expressed &#8220;discomfort&#8221; and &#8220;didn&#8217;t seem open to a more aggressive reform,&#8221; according to sources present at the meeting</p> <p>The so-called &#8220;superminister&#8221; of the Economy didn&#8217;t speak about any of the subjects. Instead, he canceled his appointments and hasn&#8217;t appeared publicly since. It was the head of Brazil&#8217;s Federal Revenue Service who contradicted the president, saying he was mistaken about the measures he said he had taken. Asked about Mr. Bolsonaro&#8217;s claim to have decreed an increase to financial transactions tax, Marcos Cintra, head of the tax authority, said the president hadn&#8217;t signed anything. &#8220;No, no, he must have gotten confused,&#8221; said Mr. Cintra.</p> <p>Then, on Friday evening, it was Chief of Staff Onyz Lorenzoni&#8217;s turn to say the president hadn&#8217;t meant what he had said. Regarding the pension reform, &#8220;[Mr. Bolsonaro&#8217;s words] were only to show that the transition period will be very humane,&#8221; he said.</p> <p>In politics, it is important to send signals that an administration has kicked off to a good start, with everybody pulling in the same direction. Staff meetings with great visibility are only formal. The decisions, plans, and strategies are all defined beforehand. &#8220;Amateurism doesn&#8217;t even begin to describe what we&#8217;re seeing,&#8221; wrote political scientist Carlos Melo, a columnist at The Brazilian Report.</p> <p>This past week certainly won&#8217;t determine how the Bolsonaro presidency will be like. But he was elected with great expectations from his supporters. And if he doesn&#8217;t deliver soon, disappointment could come hard at his administration.

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BY Gustavo Ribeiro

An award-winning journalist with experience covering Brazilian politics and international affairs. His work has been featured across Brazilian and French media outlets.