Despite mishandling a pandemic that has claimed over 160,000 lives, Brazil’s president is enjoying a surge in popularity thanks to emergency cash transfers and reduced political tensions. But his fortunes may turn, and the threat he poses to Brazilian democracy rise again.
President Bolsonaro strengthened his popularity and hold on power despite world’s second worst COVID-19 outbreak. Although COVID-19 pandemic reached milestones of 3mn reported infections and 100,000 deaths, most major cities continued to relax confinement measures as infection rate started to slow in most states, with only Goiás and Tocantins states reporting rising infection rate. Datafolha institute’s public opinion poll, which surveyed 2,065 people, 13 Aug showed Bolsonaro’s approval rating jump from 32% in June to 37%, with analysts attributing rise to emergency cash transfer program to people in need during pandemic. Piauí magazine 5 Aug reported that Bolsonaro had threatened to send troops to substitute Supreme Court judges in May after Judge Celso de Mello considered request to seize phones of Bolsonaro and his son Carlos as part of probe against group of presidential advisers suspected of fostering and spreading fake news; neither president nor Supreme Court commented on media report. Bolsonaro’s bid to build new political alliances with “Big Center” (Centrão) parties to strengthen govt support in Congress and avoid possible impeachment moved forward with 12 Aug appointment of center-right Progressive Party member, MP Ricardo Barros, as govt’s chief whip in Congress. In wake of increasing death toll from police operations to combat crime in poor communities of Rio de Janeiro, which led to 21-year high in police killings last year (1,814 dead) and further rises early this year, Supreme Court 18 Aug extended restrictions on police raids in Rio, allowing them only in case of extreme necessity and prohibiting use of helicopters in operations.
The frontier between Brazil and its crisis-ridden neighbour Venezuela has become a major migration route, a hotspot for crime and a flashpoint for violence.