Will Brazilians Ever Dump Bolsonaro?

By Ana Ionova

"It's still unclear whether Bolsonaro will suffer any lasting political damage from the pandemic,” said AS/COA's Brian Winter to Foreign Policy.

A caravan made up of dozens of cars moved in a neat file through the streets of Rio de Janeiro. Huge banners, scrawled with "Impeachment now!” and "Vaccine for all!" hung out the windows of some, flapping in the wind. Car horns wailed in unison, and masked protesters shouted, "Out with Bolsonaro!"

Similar convoys of protesters were seen in more than 20 Brazilian cities in late January as angry Brazilians took to the streets to voice growing frustration with President Jair Bolsonaro’s handling of the coronavirus crisis. The backlash came on the heels of shocking images of patients dying in Manaus amid oxygen shortages in hospitals, as the Amazon city was hit by a brutal second wave linked to a new COVID-19 variant…

There are also signs that Bolsonaro is eager to wrest back control of the vaccine narrative, according to Brian Winter, vice president for policy at Americas Society/Council of the Americas. After rejecting vaccination for months, Bolsonaro recently declared that “it is Brazil’s vaccine. It doesn’t belong to any governor,” he wrote in an email.

“Don’t underestimate Bolsonaro’s ability to shift course,” added Winter, especially as polls show the percentage of Brazilians who want the vaccine are rising following the crisis in Manaus. “We already see his government trying to assume some credit for the vaccine.”…

A large number of poorer Brazilians also see the president as defending “their right to work for a living, and earn for their families,” Winter argues. “They see him as the only thing standing between another lockdown and hunger in their households.”

“Unbelievable as it may sound, I think it’s still unclear whether Bolsonaro will suffer any lasting political damage from the pandemic,” he added. “Bolsonaro has done everything possible to distance himself from responsibility for the pandemic, and to some extent that has worked.”…

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