In The News: Why do Brazilians want to impeach Jair Bolsonaro?

Brazilian president repeatedly played down pandemic as thousands died from Covid

Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro. Photograph: Evaristo SA/AFP via Getty

Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro. Photograph: Evaristo SA/AFP via Getty

 

Five months ago in early March, when Ireland was still in the depths of lockdown and vaccinations across Europe were only starting to build pace, the leader of a country with one the world’s highest Covid-19 death tolls sent a message to his people.

Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro told his citizens to stop “fussing and whining” and asked “how long are you going to keep on crying?”. Bolsonaro was speaking in the midwestern state of Goia where nearly 9,000 people had already died.

More than 66,500 Brazilians went on to lose their lives to the virus in March.

Bolsonaro has repeatedly played down the pandemic, questioned measures to stop its spread and publicly doubted the safety of vaccines.

For weeks now, tens of thousands of protestors have taken to the streets of Brazil demanding the president step down for his extremely poor handling of the health crisis.

More than half a million people in Brazil have died from Covid-19 to date and demonstrators say they are exhausted, frustrated and angry at a president who is now also facing allegations of political corruption relating to vaccine procurement.

A poll carried in July found that for the first time, a majority of Brazilian now support the impeachment of their president.

So, who is this divisive Brazilian leader and how has he managed to stay in power since his election three years ago?

Tom Hennigan, The Irish Times’ Latin America correspondent, told presenter Sorcha Pollak that when Bolsonaro does eventually step down, whether it’s through election or impeachment, he will leave the country in a bad way.

“He will leave behind the disaster of the pandemic, the adjacent social impact in terms of unemployment and the rise in poverty and inequality as a result of that,” he said.

“There’s also the open flirtation with authoritarianism of the last three years. Bolsonaro himself has been too incompetent really to advance his own authoritarian ambitions... but he has shown that there is a weakness in Brazil’s institutions to push back against it.”

In the News is presented by reporters Sorcha Pollak and Conor Pope.

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