Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro is under pressure on two fronts. His country is seeing a surge in coronavirus deaths following his weeks-long insistence that the disease is of minimal danger to anyone youthful and in good physical condition, and now his son Carlos stands accused as being at the heart of a criminal misinformation campaign targeted at threatening and defaming Brazilian judges and other Bolsonaro foes.
Jair Bolsonaro has developed into one of President Donald Trump’s closest international allies, and he approached the covid-19 outbreak in much the same way as Trump. For weeks he has insisted that the novel coronavirus would not be particularly destructive in his country and he has insisted that state governors lift the lockdowns they have imposed on their citizenry. Brazil has, much like America, had some rallies against the lockdowns, last week a coughing Jair joined one of them, speaking in support of the crowd.
Shortly afterward, one of his party’s federal official who attended the gathering was hospitalized for covid-19.
April 23 was Brazil’s deadliest day yet for covid-19 cases, with more than 400 people officially dying because of the disease. Subsequent days have seen reports of more than 300 deaths per day on the average, despite fewer tests typically being processed on the weekend.
The testing is key, when considering those numbers. With limited testing resources (mass testing of the population remains unavailable in Brazil, not least because of Bolsonaro’s opposition to taking necessary measures to increase the test availability and processing rates) and deaths not being attributed to coronavirus unless a positive test has been logged, the country’s much greater than normal death rates are being attributed in part to natural causes and indeterminate disease-related issues. The actual toll in Brazil is unknown.
The other problem Jair is facing is his son Carlos, 37, who was identified on Sunday as being one of the ringleaders of a criminal organization designed to attack public figures, most notably judges and political opponents of the President, using social media. Carlos is a popular figure on Brazil’s social media, with more than 1.7 million Twitter followers.
The revelation swiftly followed the Friday morning firing by Jail Bolsonaro of Federal Police Director Maurício Valeixo, who had coordinated the investigation at the direction of the Brazilian Supreme Court; and the subsequent resignation on Friday afternoon of Justice Minister Sergio Moro.
Moro remains popular among the traditional right wing of Brazilian politics. His support of Jair during Bolsonaro’s campaign was a factor in the success of the campaign. Moro stepping down after the Police Director’s firing appears to be a sign of how serious the allegations are against Carlos – and, likely, a sign of Jair’s weakening support in the country.
Moro is the best hope for the United States in salvaging any positive relations with Brazil if Bolsonaro is swept from office via election or resignation. One factor in Jair’s election was the Marxist policy of the Brazilian leftist leaders, and they have traditionally been far more open to pairing with China and Russia than the United States. It is probable that Bolsonaro’s marriage of traditional right-wing political philosophies with strong nationalist and authoritarian views will make subsequent election of more centrist right-wing leaders more difficult.