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Brazil is already the vertex of the coronavirus hurricane: will Jair Bolsonaro survive?

President Jair Bolsonaro led Brazil to an unprecedented health, political and economic crisis. Like his colleague, Trump, he encourages the use of the dangerous drug mefloquine as a method of preventing the coronavirus. REUTERS / Adriano Machado
President Jair Bolsonaro led Brazil to an unprecedented health, political and economic crisis. Like his colleague, Trump, he encourages the use of the dangerous drug mefloquine as a method of preventing the coronavirus. REUTERS / Adriano Machado

Brazil is already the second country in the world with the most detected cases of coronavirus, after the United States, and the fifth in number of deaths from the pandemic, according to the count made by Johns Hopkins University. Unofficial figures speak of an even more serious situation, with more than a million infected and thousands of deaths unaccounted for. It has already overcome the barrier of 1,000 deaths per day. A study of Imperial College London finds the highest contagion rate for Covid-19 in Brazil in the world: each person transmits it to three others. And the peak of the pandemic has not yet been reached. Projections fluctuate, but there is some consensus that the maximum number of infections will be reached at the end of May and that of the dead in June. All this in a context of denial of the seriousness of the situation promoted by Jair Bolsonaro himself, who is rapidly losing the support he had for reaching the presidency and the vast majority of Brazilians blame what is happening. Bolsonaro is in the midst of a "perfect storm" on three fronts: serious political, economic and health crises. And the question that is around Brazil is if Bolsonaro will be able to survive such a tsunami.

Since the pandemic began, two health ministers have left for not coinciding with the indiscriminate opening of activities and the massive use of the dubious hydroxychloroquine Bolsonaro encourages to combat Covid-19. And General Eduardo Pazuello, an officer trained at the Agujas Negras Military Academy, the same one where the President studied, had to assume the portfolio. In this way, the military occupies 9 of the 22 ministries. Pazuello is a specialist in large humanitarian operations. He is experienced and could manage to provide adequate assistance to the victims of the pandemic. The detail is that does not have the necessary infrastructure. The mayor of San Pablo, the megalopolis of 21 million inhabitants, warned that the hospital system is on the verge of collapse.

Cornavirus has already reached the sad position of greatest cause of death due to a calamity in Brazilian history. The Spanish flu of 1918 killed 35,000 people in Brazil between 1918 and 19, now, with the coronavirus it could reach ten times that number. "At this rate, the coronavirus will become a tragedy that will be remembered for several generations. Obviously, the problem affects every country in the world. But here the neglect of the people and the authorities has contributed to increase the disaster ", says the main article of the last edition of the magazine Veja.

As in any crisis, the most affected are the weakest. Contagions that reached 20,000 in a single day are reproduced in favelas across the country. REUTERS / Ricardo Moraes
As in any crisis, the most affected are the weakest. Contagions that reached 20,000 in a single day are reproduced in favelas across the country. REUTERS / Ricardo Moraes

The Sars-CoV-2 has a very high lethality in Brazil, from 7% on average at the national level and in Manaus and Rio it reaches 9%. And this is due, above all, to the laziness of Bolsonaro who at first spoke of "A little flu" and then did not advance into a suitable quarantine. It was the governors who put the pandemic on their shoulders and decreed the closings that were refused from the Planalto Palace. And the pandemic found Brazil with its Single Health System "dismantled by a mixture of inept management, lack of investment, high-dose bureaucracy and rampant corruption," says the same article in Veja. Even the gravity of the situation did not stop the robbery of the health authorities in Rio de Janeiro and Santa Catarina, who are under suspicion of receiving multi-million dollar bribes in contracts to buy masks and respirators. And by putting maximum pressure on the system, on which three out of every four Brazilians depend, the coronavirus clearly exposed the lack of doctors, supplies, intensive care beds and even electricity. There were power outages at various hospitals since the pandemic started.

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"With this situation of serious crisis on all fronts," says the historian José Murilo de Carvalho, member of the national academies of Letters and Sciences, in an interview with BBC from his home in Rio de Janeiro. "It seems increasingly difficult for Bolsonaro, who came to office in January 2019 with an anti-system, militaristic and far-right speech, conclude his four-year presidential term" Carvalho explains that there were impeachment processes against Fernando Henrique (Cardoso), Lula and Temer; and none of those processes advanced because they had a solid parliamentary base. The other processes against Dilma and Collor (de Mello) went ahead because they did not have that legislative majority. "Bolsonaro does not have it either, just as he does not have the majority support of the people," says the historian.

The latest survey of XP Ipespe, concluded on Tuesday 19, confirms the trend of a pronounced decline in Bolsonaro's popularity: barely 25% consider their government to be “good or excellent”. Those who rated it as "bad" or "terrible" were 49% and 50%, respectively, compared to 31% and 42% in the previous poll, on April 24. A similar movement occurs in the economic area, in which the group that evaluates that the economy is on the wrong path it jumped from 52% to 57%, while those who see the economy in the right way went from 32% to 28%.

One of the highest numbers of infections on the planet is being registered in the Amazon region. A room with patients undergoing COVID-19 treatment at the Gilberto Novaes Municipal Campaign Hospital, in the city of Manaus. EFE / RAPHAEL ALVES

One of the highest numbers of infections on the planet is being registered in the Amazon region. A room with patients undergoing COVID-19 treatment at the Gilberto Novaes Municipal Campaign Hospital, in the city of Manaus. EFE / RAPHAEL ALVES

Respondents were also asked about the impacts of the coronavirus crisis. For 68%, the worst is yet to come, while 22% estimate that the worst is over. And it shows that support for social isolation as a means of coping with the pandemic - something Bolsonaro opposes - remains high. For 76%, it is the best way to prevent and try to avoid further contamination, while 7% disagree. The president's overall performance in the crisis is considered 58% bad or terrible and it is approved by only 21%. Anyway, the analyst Brian Winter of the Americas Quarterly, warns that Bolsonaro maintains the support of very powerful sectors. "Don't underestimate the power of tribalism in the age of social media, particularly a tribe that has much of the military, police and truckers" And he asks himself: "How will they behave if their leader is really threatened?"

In an interview in the newspaper Folha de São Paulo, former Health Minister Luiz Henrique Mandetta, who was dismissed in April due to his disagreements with the president, affirmed that Bolsonaro's intervention in the pandemic it was disastrous. "We had our studies of case and death number scenarios. Nothing that is happening today is a surprise to the government. The ministry is a ship aimlessly, "he said. "Clearly, Bolsonaro considered the economic crisis from health to be unacceptable, even though we alerted him that it was a very serious disease." Most serious for Mandetta is the president's insistence on the use of chloroquine to treat infected patients. The drug that was used until now for the treatment of malaria has serious side effects, such as cardiac arrhythmia and hallucinations. According to the former minister, Bolsonaro's intention with his commitment to this controversial drug is for Brazilians to think that they can return to work because there is already a remedy for the coronavirus. "It is something to calm down, to recover normality without so much weight on the conscience", said.

The military wing in the government is the most balanced and the one that tries to put out the fires that the president is unleashing. Nine of the 22 ministers come from the ranks of the Armed Forces. When the popular minister Sergio Moro submitted his resignation due to Bolsonaro's interference in judicial investigations in which his children are involved and wanting to impose a new police chief, three generals were mobilized to avoid the breakup. They did not succeed, but it is a good example of the prominence that the uniformed have acquired since the coming to power of the extreme right-wing. But Bolsonaro's insistence on supporting the most radicalized and coup-oriented expressions, also put the Brazilian Armed Forces in a difficult position. For months, social networks have been riddled with rumors of "Noise of steeds and steels", of coup d'etat plans for Bolsonaro to lead a dictatorship and permanently anonymous statements by generals who they rule out any possibility of a coup.

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Bolsonaro participated in three demonstrations in his support in which they demanded a coup d'etat and a dictatorship to end the restrictions to try to mitigate the effects of the pandemic. REUTERS / Adriano Machado
Bolsonaro participated in three demonstrations in his support in which they demanded a coup d'etat and a dictatorship to end the restrictions to try to mitigate the effects of the pandemic. REUTERS / Adriano Machado

Last Sunday, Bolsonaro participated in a mobilization in which the screams were asked "Coup!" and "Jair dictator!". It was the third time that he appeared in an act in favor of the closure of Congress and the Supreme Court, in addition to not complying with the quarantine. It was too much for the general. They responded in their own way. The President had proclaimed: “We are not going to accept any more interference. We are out of patience ". And he finished: "The Armed Forces are on our side." In an unusual statement, Defense Minister General Fernando Azevedo reaffirmed the military's commitment to democracy, the Constitution and the separation of powers.

General Azevedo also defended the work that the 30,000 soldiers are doing who are working to build field hospitals, move emergency equipment, or disinfect streets. "We are facing a pandemic of still unpredictable health and social consequences that requires everyone's effort and understanding," said Azevedo, opposing the vision of the president of "Nothing happens here" and "Health is in the background." The Army chief himself, Edson Leal Pujol, had had another public gesture that made Bolsonaro uncomfortable. When the president offered his hand to General Leal, he responded with a clash of his elbows. And all the other military followed suit. An elbow to the Bolsonarista strategy.

Vice President Hamilton Mourao, a tough general who became a sensible and moderate figure in the face of President Bolsonaro's extreme initiatives. REUTERS / Ueslei Marcelino
Vice President Hamilton Mourao, a tough general who became a sensible and moderate figure in the face of President Bolsonaro's extreme initiatives. REUTERS / Ueslei Marcelino

There is also a lot of speculation around the vice president Hamilton Mourão, a former general with diplomatic skills that stand out in contrast to the ways of his boss. He is the man who would hold the presidency if any of the impeachment requests were to succeed. For now there is no sign that this will happen, but both his uniformed colleagues and the bulk of the Brasilia political class are seeing it with good eyes. Mourão was in charge of appease China when Bolsonaro or one of his sons said outrages from the Beijing government, to close the diplomatic crisis by the fires in the Amazon last year or to get Brazil to stay in the Paris Agreement on the environment and its embassy, ​​in Tel Aviv. Of course, he could not save him from other very serious errors such as the video that the Supreme Court authorized to display on Friday and in which he is seen interfering to manage the Federal Police leadership, as former minister Sergio Moro had denounced.

The paradox is that Bolsonaro is going to be tried as a general, by the amount of casualties in the war. And for now, in that sense, it is suffering a heavy defeat. Many in Brazil begin to wonder if Bolsonaro is going to be able to survive the pandemic.

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Sam Conley is new to online journalism but she is keen to learn. She is an MBA from a reputed university. She brings together relevant news pieces from various industries. She loves to share quick news updates. She is always in search of interesting news so that she can share them as well to Sunriseread's readers who could enjoy them with their morning coffee.

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