Jair Bolsonaro was elected president in October 2018 with the promise of shattering Brazil’s corrupt political system. He also promised to “refound” Brazil’s economy through radical austerity reforms. But, as agents of change usually do, Mr. Bolsonaro has struggled to transition from his campaign persona to the role of leading Latin America’s largest economy. While on the campaign trail, Mr. Bolsonaro respected few boundaries—even promising to arrest or “machine gun” his opponents. But he has learned the hard way that now, his words (or lack thereof) bare consequences—often unintended ones.
His first month in office was marked by controversy, backpedals, and quarrels that give the feeling that oftentimes, the government lacks clear guidance. Moreover, the administration has found itself weakened by a corruption scandal involving the president’s eldest son Flávio—which has even led to conversations about the possibility of the tide reaching the doorstep of the presidential palace. Meanwhile, vice-president Hamilton Mourão is presenting himself as a sort of moderate alternative—ready in waiting, just in case—which has created rifts within the administration.