IIt is not an exaggeration to say that Brazil is going through the most serious crisis in its history. With nearly 4,000 deaths a day and rapidly advancing towards 500,000 people killed by Covid-19, Brazil is not just the epicenter of the pandemic. It has also become the breeding ground for new variants of the virus – a real threat to its own people and to all of humanity.
In the midst of a losing public health war, its president, Jair Bolsonaro, is throwing the country deeper into an abyss, from which it will be difficult to get out. Aside from the suffering caused to hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, of relatives and friends of the victims, the economy has plunged into recession, with 14% of the workforce doomed. Unlike what happened during the first wave of the pandemic, when Congress forced the government to distribute relatively significant financial aid to a large portion of the population, fewer people will now benefit from a smaller amount.
It is clear that national recovery is impossible until the health situation improves. In the realm of politics, where recent Supreme Court decisions exonerating former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva had raised some hopes of a return to normalcy, the sudden removal by the President of the Defense Minister, plus the resignation of the bosses. branches of the armed forces, plunged the country into institutional uncertainty.
Rumors indicate that the high command did not agree with Bolsonaro’s suggestions to establish a “state of siege”, as a possible prelude to some kind of “self-coup”, in which he would acquire extraordinary powers. It is not yet clear how this military crisis will unfold and if some kind of coup can still occur. That possibility is more likely to remain on the back burner as a permanent threat to be used in the event that Congress initiates impeachment proceedings against the president or, something that is not out of place, social unrest grows as a result of the disastrous government management. health crisis and economic recession.
With his repeated warnings of impending chaos, Bolsonaro appears to be consciously toying with a “self-fulfilling prophecy,” from the dire consequences he hopes to benefit in some way. The same is true of the constant threats, by the president himself or by some of his associates, to use force against the governors of states that take measures, such as closures and curfews, to combat the spread of the pandemic.
The veiled threats are also being voiced by radicalized members of the armed forces (mainly those who are no longer on active duty) and, by some accounts, by Bolsonaro himself. In fact, one of the reasons for the president’s animosity toward former army chief Edson Pujol, a widely respected four-star general considered to be attached to the law and the constitution (a “legalist”), was his unwillingness to He accepts Bolsonaro’s suggestion that he should issue a critical statement on the supreme court decision that restored Lula’s political rights, allowing the former president to run again for the presidency next year.
A few hours before the announcement about the changes in the army, the president, under strong pressure from the upper house, had removed the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ernesto Araújo, whose disastrous conduct of Brazilian diplomacy was widely held responsible for the difficulty in getting much needed vaccines from China, India and the United States.
Araújo, however, enjoyed the favor of many of Bolsonaro’s far-right supporters, including the president’s children. His firing was seen as a defeat in front of Congress. In a way, his surprising move against the warlords was a way of showing that the president retains the ability to take the initiative. And in an extremely sensitive area, for that matter.
Whats Next? With his popularity declining, despite continued support from around 30% of the population, the loss of sympathy (or tolerance) for big capital, not to mention the much-lamented defeat of his friend and guru, Donald Trump, A Bolsonaro is especially concerned about his immediate political survival with his sights set on the 2022 elections. Debates over whether he came out stronger or weaker than last week are likely to be inconclusive.
One thing seems certain, from my point of view: Bolsonaro became “smaller”, mainly due to the tensions created with the armed forces. But it still has informal groups, such as the militias, as well as the majority of the state military police and large sectors of the population that are under the influence of certain branches of the evangelical churches.
An attempt by one of his supporters in the lower house to wrest control of the local police (a kind of national guard) from the state governors and transfer it to the president has just failed. But other movements or provocations, with unforeseeable consequences, are likely to occur amid an increasingly volatile socio-economic situation. All of this occurs in the context of Lula’s growing presence in the political arena, nationally and internationally. The possible victory of the left or the center-left in the next presidential elections is again on the horizon. For many people this means hope in the midst of tragedy.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism