“Brazil’s coronavirus situation is dire, but it’s not surprising given that Bolsonaro downplayed the pandemic from the beginning.
He called it the “little flu.” He shrugged at the country’s mounting death toll by saying “we’ll all die one day.” He undermined governors’ attempts to enforce social distancing and other measures, insisting economies reopen. He used a homophobic slur to refer to those who wore masks. He has continued to tout the malaria drug hydroxychloroquine and other unproven drugs as coronavirus cures.
When it comes to Covid-19 vaccinations, Bolsonaro has sowed misinformation and doubt. In December, he said of possible side effects on the Pfizer vaccine, “If you turn into a crocodile, it’s your problem.” He strongly criticized Chinese-made vaccines, including bashing his own government’s deal to acquire the CoronaVac vaccine. “The Brazilian people WON’T BE ANYONE’S GUINEA PIG,” he wrote on social media last year. Ultimately, Bolsonaro had to backtrack early this year and thank China for fast-tracking the vaccine, as Brazil faced a deadly wave of the pandemic, with few vaccines available.”
“The thing standing in the way is the Centrão (Big Center), a bloc of centrist voting parties in Brazil’s Congress. Bolsonaro has basically had to build alliances with these members of Congress, who agree to work with Bolsonaro in exchange for the president basically giving them what they want.
“Bolsonaro has actually gotten pretty good at handing out goodies — like pork-barrel projects — for the members of Congress to bring home the bacon and show their voters that they’re doing their job,” said David Samuels, distinguished McKnight University professor of political science at the University of Minnesota. “And so they’re also happy to see Bolsonaro twist in the wind as long as he keeps the spigots of money going.”
Experts said it’s going to take a lot for them to basically turn their back on those goodies — whether they’re cushy jobs or beneficial projects. An investigation by the Brazilian newspaper O Estado de S. Paulo found that Bolsonaro’s government set aside about 20 billion reais ($3.9 billion) for what are basically pork projects.
“The question for impeachment becomes this: Does popular will and senatorial and deputy outrage turn to the point where enough are willing to abandon that sort of legislative sway over the national political agenda for the sake of impeachment?” Snider of the University of Texas said.
Right now, the answer looks like a big “no.””