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?

Vaccines are the best hope to end the COVID-19 pandemic. But rich countries are hogging most of the doses, with more than 83 percent of shots administered to date having gone to residents in high- and upper-middle-income countries. Most poor countries will have to wait years to achieve widespread vaccination, according to one study.

To address this inequity some stakeholders are pushing hard for waivers to intellectual-property (IP) rights through World Trade Organization trade rules so that manufacturers in poorer countries can make their own vaccines locally. India and South Africa have been leading the charge, which would essentially mean that deep-pocketed pharma companies like New York-based Pfizer, for instance, would have to hand over the keys to the kingdom, allowing local companies in New Delhi and Johannesberg to make generic versions of their vaccines.

Unsurprisingly, the debate has gotten fiery, with passionate arguments emerging both for and against.

More Show less

Russian president Vladimir Putin on Wednesday threatened an "asymmetrical, rapid, and harsh" response for anyone that dares to cross a "red line" with Russia.

What's the red line? Putin says he'll decide on a case-by-case basis. And the cases at the moment are growing: the US has sanctioned Russia over cyber crimes; Putin critic Alexei Navalny is near death in a Russian prison; the Czechs say Russia blew up a Czech munitions depot; and as many as 120,000 Russian troops are reported to be massing along Russia's border with Eastern Ukraine.

Which is to say: there's potentially a Sol Lewitt's-worth of red lines to ponder now.

Europe has been hit by a green wave in recent years. Green parties in countries as varied as Germany, Belgium, France, Ireland, Finland, and Sweden have made sizable electoral gains, with some now sitting in national governments.

The Green phenomenon seems to be gaining yet more momentum in the lead up to some crucial European elections (Germany, France) in the months ahead. What explains the green shift, and where might this trend be headed?

More Show less

More than 930 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine have already been administered globally, and another 1 billion more are expected to be manufactured by the end of May. Most of the manufacturing is concentrated in a small group of countries. While some — like China, for instance — are exporting roughly half of the shots they make, others — mainly the US — are keeping most of the supply for domestic use. Meanwhile, export controls have been a particularly thorny issue in the European Union and India, where governments have come under intense pressure to stop sending vaccines to other parts of the world amid sluggish rollouts at home. We take a look at what the world's top manufacturers are doing with the vaccines they are producing.

Ian Bremmer explains how a fire on the Cuyahoga River in Cleveland, Ohio, in the summer of 1969, set the conservation movement ablaze in the United States. A TIME Magazine article about the fire led to the Clean Water Act, creation of the EPA, and the first Earth Day—April 22, 1970. Over 50 years later, citizens of the world agree that climate change is a global emergency. But how can nations come together to find solutions that are truly attainable?

Watch the GZERO World episode: Can We Fix the Planet the Same Way We Broke It?

US President Joe Biden's highly anticipated two-day climate summit opens on Thursday, when dozens of world leaders and bigshot CEOs will gather (virtually) to try to save the planet. Above all, the US is looking to showcase the idea that "America is back" on climate change. But will other countries buy it?

More Show less

55: EU governments on Wednesday reached a deal to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 55 percent from 1990 levels by the end of the decade. The commitment is in line with the bloc's broader goal of going carbon-neutral by 2050.

More Show less

Subscribe to GZERO Media's newsletter, Signal

The GZERO World Podcast with Ian Bremmer. Listen now.

GZEROMEDIA

Subscribe to GZERO Media's newsletter: Signal