Friday, January 28

Brazil: last year of complicated mandate for Bolsonaro

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has started at the hospital a final year in office which promises to be difficult, with, in addition to his health problems, popularity at its lowest, a recovery of Covid-19 and a weak economy.

Nine months before the presidential election, the 66-year-old former army captain was finally able to return to his palace in Brasilia on Wednesday, after two days of hospitalization for a new intestinal alert, a sequel to a stabbing attack in 2018.

Suffering from a partial obstruction of the intestinal transit, he had to cut short his vacation at the sea in the state of Santa Catarina (south) to be admitted urgently on Monday at dawn at the Vila Star hospital in Sao Paulo.

The head of state recovered without the need for surgery and was keen to show he was in good shape, joking about the medical recommendations of severe diet and exercise.

“Life goes on. I will try to follow the recommendations of the doctor and my wife, who looks at me askance (…) I have trouble controlling myself,” he said, wearing a football shirt before leaving the hospital, ensuring that he would maintain all his commitments planned for the next few weeks.

But the surgeon Antonio Luiz Macedo, who operated on him several times since the attack, recalled in an interview with the newspaper O Globo that “the risk of a new obstruction” was “considerable” if he did not follow his recommendations.

According to him, his patient ended up in hospital on Monday because of “a shrimp swallowed without being chewed” on Sunday.

Stabbed by an apparently unbalanced individual in the middle of the presidential campaign, in September 2018, Jair Bolsonaro had come close to death. Since then, he has undergone four major operations on his abdomen and the after-effects of this attack have marked his entire tenure.

– “Tired and angry” –

But health problems are far from the only ones for the far-right president, who intends to seek re-election in October.

The polls give a large victory to the ex-president of the left Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva against Bolsonaro, target of several investigations for false information in particular and of more than 140 requests for impeachment.

A large number of Brazilians blame him for his denial in the face of the Covid-19 disaster, which he described as a “flu” but which left nearly 620,000 dead in the country, the second worst death toll in the world after the United States .

The number of contaminations is on the rise again, due in particular to the end of year celebrations and the advance of the Omicron variant.

The economic context is also worrying: the purchasing power of Brazilians was severely eroded by soaring inflation, which fell from 3.75% over one year in January 2019, when Jair Bolsonaro came to power, to 10, 74% in November.

“I don’t know what could save Jair Bolsonaro,” Brian Winter, Latin America scholar and editor-in-chief of the Americas Quarterly, told AFP.

“It’s hard to imagine what could happen on the economic front to convince voters to give him a new mandate. Brazilians are tired and angry,” he said.

– Pari social –

“He has not succeeded in restoring the economy, nor in fighting corruption”, yet one of his main campaign promises, said Oliver Stuenkel, specialist in International Relations at the Getulio Vargas Foundation.

In an attempt to regain popularity, President Bolsonaro is betting on a new social program intended for the poorest: Auxilio Brasil.

The government plans to pay 20 million people at least 400 reais (around 62 euros) per month, 20% more than Bolsa Familia, a program created under Lula’s presidency (2003-2010).

“It looks like it won’t be enough to get popular class support. Much of this increase will be eaten away by inflation,” says Brian Winter.

The far-right president should not be underestimated, however. Some specialists even fear that he will follow in the footsteps of former US President Donald Trump, one of his models, with the risk of disturbances such as the invasion of the Capitol in Washington in the event of defeat.

“Bolsonaro has managed to build up a loyal base of radical supporters,” said Oliver Stuenkel.

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