Clashes in Brazil as Bolsonaro's support plummets

Ian Bremmer's Quick Take:

Hi, everybody. Ian Bremmer here with the Quick Take. Back in the office, we are functioning and open after a year and a half which is absolutely insane. 80 new employees since the pandemic who haven't met each other in person, most of the time. So God, we're happy to be back here. And wanted to kick it off by talking about Brazil.

Haven't talked about Brazil in a while, but it is their Independence Day. And wow, what an Independence Day it is. President Bolsonaro, who is in the cellar, popularity wise, the lowest popularity he's had since he's been president. And for lots of reasons, mishandling of COVID, economic problems, energy shortages, even a little bit of corruption scandals. Seen as not an effective president of the country and presidential elections next year. So, a combination of things that are setting him off individually. And has said quite famously in the past few days, that in upcoming elections, he's either going to win, or be arrested, or be killed. That those are the only three options.


In other words, it is inconceivable that he could possibly lose elections, and just like someone else here in the United States just a year ago. And so, with the Independence Day, he basically told his supporters, I want you to come out onto the streets in Sao Paulo, in Brasilia. They've been trucking in a whole bunch, thousands from agricultural regions. He told them to grab their rifles. The potential for violence is very real. And indeed yesterday, as some of these demonstrations were setting up, you've seen some push through police blockades. So, the potential for a January 6th type event in Brazil is very real. And have to be concerned about much larger scale violence in Brazil than what we experienced in the United States back in January. And as in the United States, the president of Brazil is very much personally inspiring and inciting the events that are happening.

I mean, if his supporters believe that the election is going to be stolen by the nefarious deep state, the institutions that will do anything possible legally or illegally to take away the president that they voted for, then how could it be anything but patriotic to go out and express your support through whatever means necessary for the democratically elected president? Now, couple of differences between Brazil and the United States, some on the positive side, some on the negative side. On the positive side, Brazilian elections are at the national level, unlike in the United States where rules are set up state by state. So, it's actually a lot more difficult in Brazil to fudge or to politically contest an outcome. As in the United States, in Brazil, the judiciary is quite independent. And indeed, in the case of Brazil, is very much a foe of Bolsonaro and there's been enormous amount of fighting between the president and the Supreme Court, which is part of what's causing the crisis we have right now.

There is an open question as to whether Bolsonaro would try to refuse to accept rulings of the Supreme Court going forward, which could cause an institutional crisis. Bolsonaro is also a military man, hails from the military, has a lot of support among the rank and file. Not the federal level generals, not the leaders of the armed forces, but state police who are responsible to, accountable to local governors in regions that are supportive of Bolsonaro could well be loyal to him. And so the potential that you could see some level of split among those, with the legitimate ability to carry firearms in support of a Bolsonaro faction is real. And that could cause a lot more violence in Brazil than what we saw in the United States, where everyone in the military with the exception of a couple of individuals, let's say lone wolf wackos, on January 6th was very much in favor of rule of law.

Having said all of that, Bolsonaro has a relatively weak political party, his presidencies all on the back of him. And he is frittering away significant support. He has been the leader of the right, and as a consequence, business leaders and finance leaders have been fairly, strongly supporting him. You are now starting to see that support erode. And indeed, I've seen a number of them not just talk to me privately, but also talk publicly about their opposition to the way Bolsonaro has been governing recently. And so I think what is interesting is that the likely outcome in Brazil, if things get really ugly, if you end up with a January 6th type event on steroids, either today, which is certainly possible, or in the run-up to upcoming elections, then what would be more likely is Bolsonaro loses a very significant amount of his existing support and there's then space for a third party in the center for a new candidate that would show up. If that doesn't happen, then the most likely outcome is Lula, who the former president of the country who had been indicted, arrested, and in jail, and then released. And now is running for president would become president again in Brazil, something the business community would hate. But right now his numbers are vastly better than Bolsonaro's.

Two-person race, that's the likely outcome. If it's a three-person race, then all bets are off. But right now, Bolsonaro weakening very significantly. And as he's getting cornered, is becoming more and more extreme in his motives and his strategy. And that is losing more and more support. So very different from the institutionalized two-party system in the United States, where even after Trump loses, the Republican Party is still his party. By the way, another question a lot of people talking about whether or not he's going to announce that he's going to be the Republican nominee or he's running for president, who will certainly be the nominee if he does. Soon, given Afghanistan, but that's a different Quick Take.

Anyway, that's it for me, hope that Brazil stays relatively peaceful today, but we will see, and we'll be talking about it. Be good, everyone. Talk to you soon.

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