(CNN Spanish) — Jair Bolsonaro will seek this Sunday to renew his presidential mandate for four more years, in elections that will confront him for the first time with the leader of the Workers’ Party (PT), Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva.
After being elected in the second round in October 2018 with 55.13% against Fernando Haddad, the former Army captain will bet on a new term as head of the Planalto Palace. The current context is one of strong political polarization and, according to the polls, his rival has an advantage of around 14 points.
But Bolsonaro, 67, has a long career in Brazilian politics; Before becoming president, he had been a deputy for Rio de Janeiro seven times, between 1991 and 2018. During all those years, he resorted to incendiary statements, scandals and controversies as a way to stand out among his rivals and even as a style of doing things. politics.
Now, however, the elections will operate as a plebiscite on his four years in office and on his promises for a second term. But what happened in Brazil between 2019 and 2022? Below, a review of his Government.
When Bolsonaro took office, on January 1, 2019, Brazil was suffering from a prolonged period of economic crisis, which deepened with the covid-19 pandemic in 2020 – when it experienced an unprecedented drop in its GDP and entered a recession. According to data from the World Bank, this drop in GDP in 2020 reached 4.1%.
In recent months, however, the Latin American giant has seen a gradual recovery of its economy.
It is on those achievements that Bolsonaro has focused during the last stretch of his campaign for re-election. Before the last session of the UN General Assembly, for example, he stated that both poverty, inflation and unemployment are falling and that the Brazilian economy is “in full recovery.”
Indeed, those indices have shown small declines in the last two or three months, although the overall economic picture is a bit gloomier: one in 10 Brazilians is currently unemployed and inflation was 8.73% in August, compared to the same month last year.
During the same speech, delivered on September 20 from the agency’s headquarters in New York City, the conservative president claimed that privatization and deregulation, flagship measures of his government, promoted a better economic environment in the country. Among the measures that underpinned this orientation are the Law of Economic Freedom and the Law of start-ups.
The covid-19 pandemic was one of the greatest challenges for the Government of Jair Bolsonaro from the health, economic and political point of view.
From the beginning, Bolsonaro downplayed the severity of the virus, which he defined as a small cold, a “gripezinha”, for which he himself, due to his status as an “athlete”, would not worry in case of being infected, according to his own sayings. in local media. Later, Bolsonaro participated in several protests calling for the end of the covid-19 restrictions. Some of the participants even demanded a military intervention to shut down Congress and the Supreme Court.
Thus, in the midst of growing social discontent due to the effects of the pandemic, the lack of vaccines and suspicions of corruption of the president, in May 2021 an investigation officially began in the Brazilian parliament to evaluate his handling of the pandemic. In October of that year, the commission in charge of the investigation voted in favor of recommending charges against the president, although no progress has been made in this regard so far.
Datafolha polls from that period found that 54% of Brazilians supported a proposal by lawmakers to open an impeachment process against Bolsonaro, and that 53% considered his presidency “bad” or “appalling.”
According to data from Johns Hopkins University, Brazil has so far accumulated more than 34.6 million cases and some 685,000 deaths, which places it on the podium of the countries with the most infections and fatalities in the world, along with United States and India.
In Latin America, one of Bolsonaro’s first foreign policy gestures occurred on February 28, 2019, when he met in Brasilia with Juan Guaidó, the leader of the Venezuelan opposition and considered by several governments as interim president, whom he has supported ever since. In November of that year, at the United Nations General Assembly, Brazil voted against lifting the embargo on Cuba, along with the US and Israel.
Bolsonaro has also spoken on several occasions about what is happening in Nicaragua, questioning Daniel Ortega. This week, he even announced that he was “opening the doors” of Brazil for the religious who are being persecuted in the Central American country.
At the regional level, Bolsonaro has been critical of the Common Market of the South (Mercosur), made up of Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay and Venezuela—currently suspended—. Indeed, the differences expressed by him and by Luis Alberto Lacalle Pou have operated in recent months as an obstacle to its normal operation.
Bolsonaro expressed his intentions to make the bloc more flexible and has come to question its future. Simultaneously, trade relations between Brazil and Argentina have been diminished, while China occupies an increasingly important place in the Brazilian economy.
Other signs that he gave at the beginning of his mandate was the opening of a diplomatic headquarters in Jerusalem, Israel, following the steps previously taken by the then US president, Donald Trump, whom he considered one of his greatest allies.
Bem vindo to Israel @ernestofaraujoMinister of Foreign Affairs of Brazil & President @jairbolsonaro. Obrigado for opening a diplomatic office in Jerusalem! Israel and Brazil are true friends sharing common values and we will strengthen the cooperation between our two countries. pic.twitter.com/yj2Qavz9NV
— ישראל כ”ץ Israel Katz (@Israel_katz) March 31, 2019
Unlike his policy in relation to Mercosur, Bolsonaro has maintained his interest and activity around the BRICS, a block originally made up of Brazil, Russia, India and China, and later also made up of South Africa, which sought to group the called emerging markets. Despite the fact that it was founded in 2006 under the presidency of Lula da Silva, the conservative president has maintained uninterrupted relations with his associates and participated in the summits —the last one held in Beijing, in June of this year—.
Even before that meeting, and also before Russia’s aggression against Ukraine, Bolsonaro traveled to Moscow last February. In addition to supporting the last-minute peace efforts that were taking place at the time and signing a series of bilateral agreements, such as the exchange of classified information, he praised his Russian counterpart, saying: “I understand that President Putin is a person who seeks peace And no one in the world is interested in a conflict.”
After the start of the war, and although Brazil voted to condemn Russia’s aggression at the UN, Bolsonaro has avoided speaking directly, saying days before the vote that the country would remain “neutral.”
Brazil, according to the rest of the world
Both the handling of the pandemic and Bolsonaro’s environmental policy during the last four years earned him relative international isolation. It is that, during his mandate, the destruction of the largest tropical forest in the world has deepened, reaching a historic deforestation in the first three months of 2022: an area almost the size of Dallas, Texas, according to data from the National Institute of Space Research of Brazil (INPE).
In 2020, in the midst of the forest fires that ravaged the Amazon, Bolsonaro went so far as to state that the environmental concerns expressed by different governments, local indigenous groups and non-profit organizations were nothing more than a prelude to a foreign invasion in the region. In the same vein, during the G7 summit in France in August 2019, President Emmanuel Macron announced a fund to help Brazil with the fires, which was rejected by Bolsonaro, “as if we were a colony or no man’s land.” .
Also, at the beginning of his mandate, in a first blow to his aspirations to strengthen ties with the US, Bolsonaro announced the cancellation of a trip to New York amid reactions about his attitudes. New York Mayor Bill de Blasio called him a “dangerous man.” “Your overt racism of his, his homophobia of his, and his destructive decisions will have a devastating impact on the future of our planet,” he added.
During his speech to the UN in 2021, calmer and trying to build trust, Bolsonaro showed that he felt that isolation. “(Donald) Trump is gone, (Benjamin) Netanyahu is gone. The main country that really aligns with his line of right-wing conservatism is Victor Orban’s Hungary,” Brian Winter, editor-in-chief of Americas Quarterly and vice president for policy at the Americas Society/Council of the Americas, told CNN at the time.
In October 2021, the Austrian non-profit organization AllRise urged the International Criminal Court (ICC) to investigate the Brazilian president for his policies in relation to the Amazon, which according to the complainant lawyers amount to “crimes against humanity.”
First electoral round
Bolsonaro has cast doubt on Brazil’s electoral system throughout his re-election campaign. In particular, the president has groundlessly questioned the transparency of the electronic voting machines used in the country, which, paradoxically, are the same system by which he himself came to power.
This attitude can be attributed to the fact that the polls give an advantage to his rival, Lula da Silva. However, Bolsonaro still has one chance left if he manages to make it to the ballot on October 30. This will only happen if Lula does not obtain more than 50% of the votes in the first round of elections.
According to CNN Brasil, so far all the presidents who have run for a second term have been re-elected in the country since that instrument was implemented in 1997.
With information from Rodrigo Pedroso, Juliana Koch, Samantha Beech