On June 26, in the small Ceará countryside town of Penaforte, President Jair Bolsonaro posed for photos in front of a rushing canal, with his arms aloft, thanking the heavens. He was taking part in the inauguration of another stretch of the São Francisco river transfer project, aimed at delivering water to one of the country’s driest regions.
This was the latest in a series of such photo ops concerning the project, since it was started by former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva in 2007. Along with Mr. Bolsonaro, five presidents have claimed ownership of the initiative. But beyond a squabble over the parentage of a major infrastructure endeavor, the president’s presence in Penaforte is a clue toward his strategy to hold on to popularity, and perhaps curry favor in a region in which he has never enjoyed much support.