IRI Expert Discusses Brazil’s Growing Support for Bolsonaro for the Latin America Advisor
Q: Brazil, the world’s sixth-largest country by population, has the second-highest number of Covid-19 cases and deaths, after the United States. Its president, Jair Bolsonaro, who has himself been infected but recently tested negative, has downplayed the threat of the disease, touted an unproven drug to treat it and called for businesses to reopen, even as the virus has killed more than 100,000 Brazilians in recent months. However, Bolsonaro’s approval ratings in late July showed strengthening support for him, according to polls by news magazine Veja, news site Poder360 and brokerage firm XP Investimentos. What are the reasons for Bolsonaro’s rising support? How will his approval ratings affect his agenda? How strong are Bolsonaro’s opponents, and how has the pandemic changed Brazilians’ support for them?
A: Katya Rimkunas, regional deputy director for Latin America and the Caribbean at the International Republican Institute: “Recent polls, including a Datafolha poll published Aug. 14, show Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro continuing to defy political gravity. He maintains rising approval ratings despite being broadly criticized for his response to the Covid-19 pandemic in Brazil, home to one of the world’s worst outbreaks. A closer look at the numbers reveals two reasons for this paradox. First, stimulus measures in response to the pandemic have generated strong approval from lower-income Brazilians. Bolsonaro’s government has enacted economic aid packages that have halved Brazil’s rate of extreme poverty from 6.2 percent at the beginning of this year to 3.3 percent in June, according to the Getúlio Vargas Foundation. The $115 monthly stipend created by the aid package is reaching about half of Brazilians who desperately need it, preserving their economic fortunes even as the overall economy is expected to contract by almost 6 percent this year.
Read the full interview here.