Though his administration was plagued with multiple corruption scandals, former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva remains one of Brazil’s most popular politicians. His detractors claimed his support was a byproduct of wealth transfer policies, which they dismiss as ‘cash-for-votes’ schemes. Lula’s followers, on the other hand, claim this evaluation is classist and argue his popularity is down to an ensemble of progressive policies, particularly in Brazil’s poor Northeast — the only region of the country where Jair Bolsonaro lost in the 2018 election.
Now, however, Mr. Bolsonaro’s popularity is on the rise in the Northeast, according to several opinion polls, leaving Lula’s supporters dumbstruck. This rise in approval coincides with the creation of the coronavirus emergency salary in March, which paid a BRL 600 (USD 110) monthly stipend to unemployed and informal workers, preventing tens of millions from falling below the extreme poverty line.