The protests, this Saturday (29), against the Jair Bolsonaro government represented an “I Do Not Authorize” both for the anti-democratic bravado of the president of the Republic and for the sabotage he has been carrying out in the fight against the pandemic.
It is representative that Paulista Avenue in São Paulo has been filled with many more blocks of people now than at the event in support of Bolsonaro on May 1st. At that time, his followers held up placards with the slogan “I Authorize” alongside banners with “Military Intervention Now.”
So far, Jair has taken advantage of the fact that only his followers occupied the streets to claim that the “people” were calling for forceful action against social restriction measures to reduce covid-19 contagion.
Of course, the president considers as “people” only the portion that says amen to him. On the other hand, the Brazilians of this Saturday, he sees as troublemakers, mercenaries, terrorists.
Protesting against the more than 460,000 deaths by covid-19 and demanding both a life-saving vaccine and a larger amount of emergency aid to stave off hunger, hundreds of thousands took to the streets. Although the vast majority wore masks and tried to keep their distance, there was crowding in the larger acts – which is worrisome because we are entering the third wave of deaths.
The protesters justify themselves by saying that they know the risks of this and are not denialists, but they see the demonstration of popular dissatisfaction outside the social networks as the only way to curb the actions and omissions of the president in the fight against the pandemic. They argue that staying silent and letting Bolsonaro continue his course would cause more pain and suffering.
Impeachment is still a distant idea, but being talked about again in the streets can have consequences – Douglas Magno / AFP
Besides showing what the opinion polls have shown, that there are more people angry than happy with him and his government, the demonstrations also brought back a word that had been missing from the national political lexicon: impeachment.
There are 120 requests for impeachment of Jair Bolsonaro in the drawer of the president of the Chamber of Deputies, Arthur Lira (PP-AL), his ally. But since Rodrigo Maia (DEM-RJ) presided over the house, they have been piling up. The assessment is that they would only have a chance to prosper if people went massively and systematically to the streets, as they did against Dilma Rousseff.
And at the same time, the support he has would fall even further. Bolsonaro’s approval rating, which reached 37% in August last year, went to 31% in January, 20 days after his government suspended emergency aid, and reached 24%, the lowest of his administration, in the latest Datafolha poll. Rousseff was removed by the House when she had a 13% approval rating, but Temer held on even at 3%, as he relied on Congress.
Impeachment is, therefore, still a distant idea. The fact that it is again being spoken about in the streets can bring consequences: the centrons, who rent protection to Bolsonaro, increase their price – in amendments, in positions, in power sharing; the investigations of the government’s sabotages in the Senate’s Covid CPI gain support; the opposition to Bolsonaro that is organizing itself for 2022 grows stronger internally.
On the steps of Rio’s City Council, thousands gathered to criticize Bolsonaro’s management of the pandemic / Mauro Pimentel / AFP
If the population were vaccinated, would there be more people protesting? It is difficult to know. Because if the majority of Brazilians had already received the two doses of immunization, life would be returning to normal, as in the United States. This would mean that Bolsonaro would have bought enough vaccines last year. But if so, he would not have sabotaged the fight against the pandemic. And it would be shorter, with fewer deaths, which would lead to him enjoying better popularity.
On the other hand, if covid-19 were at a milder moment, events would bring more people together, which could put pressure on parliament. The Povo sem Medo and Brasil Popular fronts will sit down to analyze the impact of the demonstrations, but a sequence of acts of this magnitude is unlikely at this point in the pandemic.
Besides trying to cover up Bolsonaro’s actions and omissions, a concrete result, according to the column, may be a new attempt to increase the emergency aid to R$ 600. The R$ 150 minimum wage buys, today, less than 25% of the basic food basket in Florianopolis, São Paulo, Porto Alegre and Rio de Janeiro, according to a monthly survey by Dieese (Intersyndical Department of Statistics and Socioeconomic Studies).
According to the institute, 55% of families earning up to R$ 2,200 would not vote for Bolsonaro at all in 2022. Among the unemployed, 14.4 million people according to IBGE’s PNAD Continuous, the approval of the president is only 16%.
It is too early to say what the outcome will be. The president is likely to use the unfortunate episode in Recife, when the police attacked demonstrators, seriously injuring some of them, to threaten further anti-democratic measures. When cornered and weakened, he usually lies and attacks even more.
But if, on one hand, the protests served to reveal the size of the dissatisfaction, which is not taking to the streets more due to health issues, on the other, it reminded the country that, today, the government and denialism do not represent the will of the majority of the population.
Translation by Internationalist 360°