Brazil: pandemic, political crisis and judicialization – 14/05/2021 – Latinoamérica21

Brazil is plunged into several crises. The first and most important is the crisis of democracy. After decades of successful democratic building, generated by consensus around electoral results, the ability to implement successful social policies and greater confidence in democracy. All these elements quickly disintegrated after the impeachment process of former President Dilma Rousseff, the starting point of which was the non-recognition of the results of the 2014 elections.

The process of erosion of confidence in democracy is also a process of hyper-expansion of the prerogatives of judicial and control institutions, well beyond the autonomy desired and necessary for democracy. The Supreme Court, in particular, has accumulated prerogatives since 2012 and has started to use those prerogatives politically. Meanwhile, Operation Car Wash, initially an anti-corruption operation, has grown into a highly politicized operation. In the 2014 and 2018 presidential elections, then judge Sérgio Moro acted politically.

Finally, the military problem reappears. Brazil has left the problem of military interference in politics unresolved during its transition to democracy. Article 142 of the Constitution allows the military to intervene to guarantee law and order. Since the disastrous mission in Haiti, the leadership of an undemocratic sector of the Armed Forces has been strengthened. The main leaders of the mission in Haiti, Generals Braga Netto and Augusto Heleno (the latter accused of serious human rights violations in Haiti) rose to prominence in the leadership of the Armed Forces, which enters today in the political arena and puts pressure on democratic institutions. .

Jair Bolsonaro and his government are the result of these ways of relativizing democracy by the political, judicial and military elites of Brazil. Bolsonaro was an expressionless political figure until 2017. Until then, Bolonarianism was more of a movement than a form of government, and the retirement captain’s candidacy was seen as a protest candidacy.

Bolsonaro has catapulted himself to the center of the political scene in certain episodes: in the impeachment trial of ex-president Dilma, he rose to prominence by defending the memory of the torturer Carlos Alberto Brilhante Ustra; in the episode of the habeas corpus trial of ex-president Lula da Silva, he was part of the joint staff of the armed forces which lobbied the Supreme Court. Finally, Bolsonaro and his entourage benefited from the military intervention in Rio de Janeiro and the great push for the militia policies that it made possible.

Jair Bolsonaro’s problem from the start of his government has been to establish a relationship between the movement to attack the political system he was leading and something that at least expressed some ability to govern. Bolsonaro brought to his ministry few politicians with managerial capacity like Sérgio Moro, Onix Lorenzoni or Luís Henrique Mandetta, but almost immediately the government’s action focused on strongly ideological ministers like the former minister of Education Abraham Weintraub or Minister of the Environment Ricardo Salles.

Since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, the idea of ​​replacing methodical public policies with ideological forms of management has impacted the Ministry of Health with tragic results for the Brazilian population. Bolsonaro had appointed Luiz Henrique Mandetta to the Ministry of Health, a minister with a centrist profile and technical training in the region, in complete dissonance with almost all the other members of his ministry. Thus, the coronavirus crisis fell into the hands of a centrist minister, in a government that has almost no centrists, and a minister with technical capacities.

Jair Bolsonaro has invested to halt Brazil’s response to the pandemic. First of all, he invested against the policy of social isolation, and on April 16, 2020, the captain managed to implement his anti-life policy with the resignation of Minister of Health Luiz Henrique Mandetta.

After the inauguration of the new minister, General Eduardo Pazuello, the government deactivated federal interrelationships at the decisive moment in the fight against Covid-19, then agreed to prescribe drugs of unproven efficacy to the population and finally completely disorganized the vaccination campaign in the country. the parents. It didn’t take long for the result, or the deaths, to appear and until this moment, Brazil is going through its biggest health crisis, which is also a political crisis.

The Bolsonaro government faces two conflicts that have already sealed its fate as a weak government: a conflict with Congress and a conflict with the Supreme Court. Bolsonaro had various episodes with Congress during his two years in office. In the early days of the Captain’s administration, the tension between government and Congress revolved around agendas related to arms and higher education, while the mayor made Bolonarianism’s economic agenda viable.

We are currently experiencing a confrontation of much larger dimensions: with the opening of a commission of inquiry in the Senate, the opposition and independent members of the House are taking the lead in investigating the performance of the president and his ministers in the pandemic.

The president’s second conflict is with the Supreme Court. During the first year of government, the Supreme Court maintained an equidistant position from government, occasionally intervening in certain conflicts. With the start of the pandemic, conflicts between the Supreme Court and the Bolsonaro government intensified, especially after the court ruling in favor of the autonomy of governors and mayors to deal with the pandemic. The relationship became even more strained with the actions of the dean of the tribunal in connection with the president’s political interference.

These two conflicts that President Jair Bolsonaro faces are unusual in a functioning democracy. They are the expression of an authoritarian populism that seeks to reinforce the actions of a president who has no concern for governance or who has turned it into opinions on the pandemic, vaccination and the federal pact.

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