Brazil - Bolsonaro is staggering. Is he falling too?

Bolsonaro staggered. Is he falling too?

Brazil's President Bolsonaro has been criticized internationally for his environmental policy. Two important ministers recently had to resign and unemployment reached record levels

Photo: ZUMA Wire / IMAGO

Visibly upset, Jair Bolsonaro appeared before the press. You should stop asking "stupid questions," he yelled at reporters. Statesmanlike composure and a conciliatory approach to the fourth estate have never been his style; verbal failures have become a trademark. In the meantime, however, a noticeably nervous president has emerged who is in the toughest crisis of his term in office. Journalists had asked questions about a case that has been making headlines for days: Bolsonaro is said to have known about corruption attempts in the procurement of the Indian Covaxin vaccine and not intervened. So far, the far-right head of state has weathered many scandals well. The latest allegations of corruption, however, weigh heavily: They scratch the image of the clean man and the restless fighter against corruption.

And that at the worst possible time. He has been criticized internationally for his environmental policy, recently two important ministers had to resign and unemployment reached record levels. In addition, the pandemic has the country firmly under control: Around 530.000 dead, hospitals on the verge of collapse, a sluggish vaccination campaign. A short video in which Bolsonaro pulls the protective mask off a child's face is symptomatic of his corona course. For two months now, a parliamentary committee of inquiry has been investigating the government's handling of the pandemic and revealing an amateurish crisis management system that plunged a country into disaster through inability and ignorance. All the more, it seems that many Brazilians are running out of patience. Last weekend tens of thousands took to the streets against this disaster. Bolsonaro is also facing increasing headwinds in Congress. An alliance of purposes made up of MPs of various stripes recently submitted an application for removal from office. Of course, it is unlikely that it will come to that. The President of the House of Representatives, an ally of Bolsonaro, who also has sufficient backing in Congress, decides whether to start the proceedings.

In view of all this, it is hardly surprising that the former left-wing President Luiz Inácio da Silva (in office 2003-2010) is not only preparing for a spectacular comeback, but is actually taking place. After all the judgments against him were annulled in March, “Lula” comes into play for the 2022 election. The Social Democrat with the hoarse voice clearly leads in all polls before Bolsonaro, who many predict that Donald Trump will be voted out of office. However, it would be negligent to start a swan song now.

The far-right president has a factor on his side that should not be underestimated: time. Although the vaccination campaign is running chaotically, a large part of the population in Brazil should also be protected by next year at the latest. The economy is slowly recovering. It is questionable whether the corona scandals will be discussed in a few months. Voters' memories are short, especially since Bolsonaro can absolutely rely on an estimated one fifth of Brazilians. His regular voters are loyal to him and worship him like a god - not in spite of, but because of his rude manner, the constant failures and the agitation. In crisis-ridden Brazil, Bolsonaro knows better than anyone how to spark fears. With a populist media strategy, infamous attacks on minorities and the sometimes paranoid warning shouts of an alleged communist gender dictatorship, he could again succeed in rallying willing supporters around him. His homophobic and racist statements were also well received in the 2018 election campaign. Instead of content, the state discussed for weeks whether Bolsonaro's opponent had penis-shaped baby bottles distributed to day-care centers.