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LatinNews Daily - 03 June 2021

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BRAZIL: Bolsonaro touts achievements as pandemic resurges

On 2 June, Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro delivered a televised address in which he outlined his government’s supposed achievements, notably on the economic front.

Analysis:

Bolsonaro’s speech comes at a time of political weakness, as his government’s mishandling of the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic is being subjected to scrutiny in a commission of parliamentary inquiry (CPI) in the senate, and public discontent has recently translated into street protests. The national address was seemingly an attempt to make the most of the economy’s strong performance to win back some public support. 

  • In the short, five-minute speech, Bolsonaro focused on the economic measures taken by his government to help Brazilians and small businesses during the pandemic, and listed its achievements, namely a series of small economic reforms passed by congress and infrastructure projects. He evoked the recently released Q1 GDP figures, which showed unexpectedly strong growth, and claimed that Brazil’s economy will grow 4% this year (the government’s official projection currently stands at 3.5%).
  • “Our government did not oblige anyone to stay at home,” Bolsonaro said in an implicit criticism of the restrictions adopted by many local governments in a bid to contain the spread of Covid-19. He also hailed the vaccination process, saying that all Brazilians “who wish so” will be vaccinated by the end of the year and claiming that Brazil is “the fourth country that most vaccinates in the world”. While this is true in absolute terms, some 22% of the Brazilian population has received at least one jab, leaving it far behind rich countries and neighbours Chile (56%) and Uruguay (53%) for example.
  • Bolsonaro began his speech by lamenting “every life lost in our country”, but did not otherwise evoke the pandemic’s death toll and the persistent public health crisis. Brazil recorded 95,601 new Covid-19 cases yesterday, the highest daily figure since March, and 2,507 deaths, bringing the total to 16.7m cumulative cases and 467,706 fatalities.    

Looking Ahead: Bolsonaro’s speech was met by ‘panelaços’ (pots-and-pans protests) in at least a dozen major cities across the country, suggesting that rejection of the president remains strong and is likely to persist if warnings of a third Covid-19 wave prove to be true.