Did Bolsonaro go from bust to boom?

Did Bolsonaro go from bust to boom?

Just a few months ago, things were not looking good for Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro.

As the coronavirus bore down on his country, he was ridiculing the disease, losing health ministers in quick succession, and squabbling with governors over lockdown measures that he opposed. The Brazilian leader's approval ratings sank into the low 30s. Then his own star justice minister quit after accusing Bolsonaro of interfering in a police corruption probe, and soon after talk of impeachment was in the air. So too were fears that Bolsonaro, a former army captain with a soft spot for Brazil's old military dictatorship, might attempt a coup. To top it off, he fell ill with COVID-19, and — to add insult to infection — one of his own presidential palace emus bit him on the hand.

We'll admit, we too wondered if Bolsonaro was going bust.

But earlier this week brought a remarkable turnaround. A new study by leading pollster Datafolha shows that Bolsonaro now enjoys the highest approval ratings of his entire presidency. Granted it's still just 37 percent, but that's up 5 points since June, while his disapproval rating fell a whopping 10 points to 34 percent.


There are three ways to explain the resurrection of a politician whose middle name is, literally, "Messiah."

First, money can buy love. Bolsonaro's seen his biggest recent gains among the millions of low-income and informal workers who've been getting monthly stimulus checks of about $200 from the government to offset the impact of the coronavirus lockdowns. In fact, his ratings soared most in the populous and relatively poor Northeast — historically a bastion of support for Bolsonaro's arch-enemy, leftwing former president Luiz Inacio "Lula" da Silva.

Second, Bolsonaro has been less Bolsonaro-ish lately. Maybe the virus mellowed him out a bit, or maybe he sees a political upside to toning down his attacks on the Supreme Court or Congress, but Bolsonaro — who made his name with provocative and offensive statements — has been noticeably less controversial lately. While he can always count on cult-like devotion from roughly a third of Brazilians, this kinder, gentler Bolsonaro is now winning back people who liked his populist challenge to the system but were uneasy with his more extreme pronouncements on democracy, lawmakers, and the courts.

Third, even death becomes normal. Brazil still has the world's second-worst coronavirus outbreak. More than 105,000 people have died, and the number rises by 1,000 every day. But, crucially, the trend isn't getting worse. In fact, in many big cities it's getting better now. Amazingly, nearly half of Brazilians don't hold Bolsonaro responsible for the death toll at all.

Still, let's not get carried away. A 37 percent approval rating isn't exactly a fireworks display of popular support. And Brazil is still suffering the worst public health and economic crisis in generations. What's more, the stimulus payments expire next month, meaning Bolsonaro needs to negotiate a fresh package.

But the president's rising approval ratings make it easier to do that with Congress, and they also disperse the earlier threat of impeachment. As the 2022 election starts to appear on the horizon, does the famously reactionary Bolsonaro have the cash and the patience to keep this momentum going?

This week, the market value of Tencent, China's biggest video game company, nosedived after a state media outlet suggested that online gaming was as addictive and destructive as opium. Tencent immediately pledged to cap the number of hours people can play, and to keep minors off its platforms.

It's the latest example of a months-long crackdown on major Chinese technology firms that until recently were viewed as some of the world's most powerful and successful companies, as well as a source of national pride. Beijing's about-face on its own tech titans could have big implications for China, and beyond.

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Whenever Burkina Faso is in the news, it's often about how the crisis-ridden country has got caught up in the crosshairs of horrific jihadist violence plaguing the Sahel.

But this week, the nation of 20 million was celebrating because Hugues Fabrice Zango won its first-ever Olympic medal after finishing third in the men's triple jump in Tokyo.

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Should people get COVID vaccine booster shots? Not yet, says the World Health Organization, which is pushing for rich nations or those with access to jabs to hold off until at least the end of September so all countries get to fully vaccinate at least 10 percent of their populations before some jump ahead with boosters. But the WHO's call has fallen on deaf ears in nations like Israel, France, Germany and Russia, which are already planning to offer boosters, in part to better protect people against the more contagious delta variant. What's more, mRNA vaccine makers Pfizer and Moderna are recommending supplemental doses for the same reason. The problem is that, beyond the obvious moral imperative for equal access to vaccines, if the rich continue hoarding jabs while vaccination rates stay low elsewhere, the virus will continue to thrive — and mutate into new, potentially even more infectious variants that sooner or later will reach every corner of the planet.

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Jon Lieber, Managing Director of the United States for Eurasia Group, shares updates on recent COVID-19 policy developments:

The Biden administration extended an eviction moratorium even after the Supreme Court said they couldn't, what's next?

Well, the CDC imposed a nationwide eviction moratorium in light of increased risk from evicted people because of the coronavirus pandemic. The Supreme Court in June ruled that they (CDC) overextended their authority in doing so and mandated that the moratorium expire on schedule in July. A group of progressive activists weren't happy about this and raised a huge stink in Congress, but Congress recessed for their August vacation before they could solve the problem, putting big pressure on President Biden to extend the moratorium even though he said he didn't think that it would pass constitutional muster. The CDC did it anyway, extending the moratorium until October 3rd, which is a time that's short enough to probably avoid it being overturned by lawsuits, but long enough that Congress has time to figure out how to either extend it on a bipartisan basis or put more money into a rental assistance fund that few people have taken advantage of so far. This whole incident shows the power of progressive activists in the Biden administration who were able to elevate the profile of this issue and potentially prevent millions of people from losing their homes this summer.

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On GZERO World, Ian Bremmer takes a look at the yin and the yang of alcohol's role in high-level diplomacy and society at large. Alcohol can bring people together just as easily as it can tear them apart. From a 1995 Clinton/Yeltsin Summit where a drunk Yeltsin almost derailed Bosnian peace talks, to Obama's Beer Summit and the recent G7 Summit, booze plays a part in how world leaders interact. Globally, alcohol consumption has been steadily increasing, by over 70 percent between 1990 and 2017, according to one report. . Low and middle-income nations like Vietnam, India, and China are a driving force behind that trend, with drinking in Southeast Asia rising by over 34 percent between 2010 and 2017. And yet, amidst this global booze boom, the world has only grown more and more divided.

Watch the episode: The (political) power of alcohol

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But many participants were caught off guard during this week's individual jumping qualifiers in Tokyo by a very daunting statue of a sumo wrestler on the hurdle course (which is dotted with statues paying homage to traditional Japanese culture, like geisha kimonos, cherry blossoms, and taiko drums).

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