The Autumn of President Bolsonaro

Oct 28, 2021
12:13 PM

Brazilian Pres. Jair Bolsonaro (AP Photo/Eraldo Peres)

One of the few certainties Brazilians have these days is that, whenever possible, far-right president Jair Bolsonaro will make stupefying, anti-science, and borderline criminal statements.

On Thursday, October 21, it was no different. In a Facebook Live, the President claimed that those who are vaccinated against COVID-19 could develop AIDS.

“Another serious thing here, I’m just going to break the news, I’m not going to comment on it, I’ve talked about it in the past and I’ve caught a lot of heat for it,” he said. “Official reports from the U.K. government suggest that the fully vaccinated— who are the fully vaccinated? Those who after the second dose, 15 days after the first dose… are developing Immune Deficiency Syndrome much faster than anticipated.”

The video was soon deleted by Facebook —the first time a video of the president’s weekly live stream has been removed.

The lie, as usual, emboldened his base of supporters and angered scientists. His statement comes amid discussions about the final report of the Senate’s Parliamentary Inquiry Commission which investigated the President’s response to the pandemic and has indicted him for crimes against humanity.

The Commission approved the report in a seven to four vote on 25 October. Written by Sen. Renan Calheiros, the 1,000-plus-page report calls for the indictment of 78 people, including the President, for crimes committed during the pandemic that has taken the lives of more than 600,000 Brazilians. The President is accused of at least 10 crimes, from common crimes to crimes of a political nature, such as “prevarication,” irregular use of public funds, “charlatanism,” crimes against humanity, and so on.

“We will not forget,” Calheiros said in his closing speech. “The chaos of the Jair Bolsonaro government will go down in history as the lowest rung of human and civilizational indigence. It brings together the most rudimentary, infamous, and darkest of humanity. Bolsonaro has sabotaged science, is unprepared, dishonest, cavilous, arrogant, authoritarian with a coup-like nature, bellicose, a liar, and has acted like a crazed missionary to kill his own people.

“There is a murderer in the Palácio do Planalto.”

The Attorney General’s Office is expected to open numerous lawsuits against the President, and the Socialism and Liberty Party has already announced that the report will be taken to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Meanwhile, the siege on the President’s supporters continues. Zé Trovão, a self-styled leader of the truck drivers who was on the run in Mexico, has returned to the country and turned himself in to the police. He was wanted for inciting violent and threatening acts against democracy during a call for protests in support of the President in September.

Blogger Allan dos Santos, responsible for one of the largest pro-Bolsonaro fake news websites, Terça Livre, is a fugitive in the U.S. and is accused by Supreme Federal Court Justice Alexandre de Moraes of having ties to the invaders of the U.S. Capitol Building in January, including using the channel of one of the invaders, Jonathon Owen Shroyer, to spread conspiracy theories against Brazil’s electoral system.

The blogger is also wanted by Interpol at the request of the Brazilian Supreme Court and his website has ceased its activities —Terça Livre’s YouTube channel was already taken offline and dos Santos is using Telegram to spread fake news and ask for donations. 


Nevertheless, Bolsonaro’s popularity has stopped falling, with 58 percent of Brazilians disapproving of his government, a drop of five points in relation to the previous survey commissioned by website Poder360. And in another piece of good news for the government, the protests called for November 15 may be canceled due to the left’s inability to attract the center-right to the protests.

In the last one, on October 2, former presidential candidate Ciro Gomes (of the center-left Democratic Labor Party) was harassed and almost assaulted by militants of the Workers’ Cause Party, a far-left party close to the Workers’ Party.

The protests, called by several left-wing and even center-right parties, were small compared to what the organizers expected, and despite the fact that non-left-wing parties were called, most of the protesters who took to the streets were supporters of the Workers’ Party and other parties close to it.

The Left itself resists the presence of center-right parties and individuals in the protests, according to research conducted by professors Pablo Ortellado and Márcio Morretto from the University of São Paulo.


In a bid to improve his popularity, Bolsonaro announced the Auxílio Brasil, a plan that replaces the Bolsa Família created by Lula da Silva. Both programs consist of a monthly aid payment to poor families. And Bolsonaro is offering 400 reais to families already registered in the previous program. 

The announcement of Auxílio Brasil, however, left the market dissatisfied because the plan breached the government’s annual spending limit. Economy Minister Paulo Guedes even saw dissension among allies in positions of trust due to the growth of spending beyond what was agreed.

On October 22, news circulated that Guedes himself would have resigned but Bolsonaro convinced him to stay on. In addition to surpassing the spending cap, Guedes saw his image tarnished by the Pandora Papers leak which revealed that he has millions of dollars in an offshore account in the British Virgin Islands and that with each devaluation of the Brazillian real he would become richer while the Brazilian population bears the consequences.

The government recently presented a tax reform proposal that demonstrates the clear conflict of interest that exists for Minister Guedes. The IRS suggested taxing capital gains abroad, including investments in tax havens, but the measure was overturned by Congress with the support of Minister Guedes and a lobby of banks and large companies.

Brazil’s economy has deteriorated rapidly. Almost 20 million Brazilians go hungry on a daily basis, and at least 74 million fear that they will go hungry if the country’s economic situation doesn’t improve.

Scenes where dozens of people fight for space in garbage dumpsters and trucks or search for bones and animal carcasses in butcher shops have become common, and the total number of slums has doubled in the last 10 years.


After last month’s scandal involving the use of human guinea pigs by the healthcare company Prevent Senior shocked the world, October saw another company in the sector, Hapvida, accused of forcing doctors to prescribe hydroxychloroquine to patients while refusing to administer COVID-19 tests.

Earlier this month, Bolsonaro vetoed a bill approved by Congress that would have distributed sanitary pads to women in vulnerable situations. Even though so-called “Period Poverty” affects more than five million Brazilian women, Bolsonaro declared the project was “against the public interest,” causing outrage among experts.

And still, in the field of science, the Ministry of Economy has cut 92 percent of the resources allocated to the Ministry of Science and Technology, which will directly impact the country’s ability to fund research and will slash grants and the CNPq’s budget, one of two national research agencies. The ministry will have only 55.2 million reais (just over $9.9 million) —a severe blow to science and innovation, and another hallmark of the Bolsonaro government.


Raphael Tsavkko Garcia is a journalist with a Ph.D in human rights (focused on migration and diaspora). His portfolio is here. Twitter: @Tsavkko.