Brazil Turns on Bolsonaro

Brazil Turns on Bolsonaro

As the 2022 campaign nears, many of the myths that made Bolsonaro appealing have been washed away by the grim realization of what he has always been: a huckster, most notable for his abrasiveness and authoritarian posturing.

Jair Bolsonaro leaves the hospital on July 18, 2021, after undergoing treatment for an intestinal obstruction. (Amauri Nehn/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Three years after the election of President Jair Bolsonaro, Brazil has been transformed from a generally respected rising power into a pariah state, repudiated for its appalling environmental and human rights record and for what Doctors Without Borders has called the world’s worst response to COVID-19. Brazilians like to joke about foreigners only knowing the country as the land of soccer, samba, and carnival. Today it is known as a prominent hub of far-right transnational conspiracy theories and democratic erosion. Bolsonaro, who ascended to the presidency of Latin America’s largest nation on a wave of reactionary bloodlust, willful ignorance, and the wishful thinking of establishment actors convinced they could control him, looms in international coverage of Brazil as a clear and present danger.

Yet over the summer, Bolsonaro seemed to be falling apart. In mid-July, he found himself in the hospital afflicted by chronic belching and hiccups. His hospitalization came as his polling hit record lows, mostly as a result of serious corruption charges and a congressional investigation into his calamitous handling of the pandemic.

As the 2022 campaign nears, many of the myths that made Bolsonaro appealing in 2018 have been washed away by the grim realization of what he has always been: a venal, profoundly incompetent huckster most notable for his abrasiveness and authoritarian posturing. There have already been over 120 formal impeachment requests against Bolsonaro filed by various political parties and civil society organizations. Much of the country has turned against the man known as “Mito” (legend) to his supporters.

Among the critics are several of Bolsonaro’s high-profile 2018 backers, including the center-right governors of São Paulo and Rio Grande do Sul. Their opportunistic disavowal of Bolsonaro signals a broader loss of support from prominent market-friendly politicians who once courted the far right. Millions of center-right voters who grudgingly voted for Bolsonaro in order to block the return of the center-left Workers’ Party (PT) in 2018 are now making the exact opposite calculation, supporting former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva as the surest means of burying Bolsonaro. Most polls show Lula comfortably ahead of the incumbent. It’s a stunning turnaround; only a few years ago Lula’s political career seemed like it was over after he was imprisoned on dubious corruption charges.

Lula ended his second term a decade ago with a staggering approval rating of 80 percent, having presided over an administration that improved the lives of millions through redistributive social policies. By contrast, the conspiratorial authoritarian politics of Bolsonarismo stand against the very idea of an accountable, effective, and judicious ...


Lima