During the 2018 campaign and until this year, President Jair Bolsonaro came across as one of those politicians who believe the state should not give handouts to its citizens. He once compared the world-renowned Bolsa Família cash-transfer initiative to a vote-for-cash graft, saying it amounted to “nothing more than taking money from those who produce and hand it to those who are lazy, so people would keep the status quo.”
As a candidate, he promised to audit the program and refused to rule out shutting it down. During his first year in office, Mr. Bolsonaro’s administration cut Bolsa Família to the bone, true to his words.
But then came the pandemic — and the Brazilian government was forced to implement an aid benefit to help vulnerable populations survive the crisis. And, like magic, Mr. Bolsonaro discovered the electoral dividends brought by social programs in a country as unequal as Brazil.