The tweezers strategy


By Paulo Capel Narvai*

With the ManifestoBrazil cannot be destroyed by Bolsonaroo” the opposition announces willingness to react to the pincer strategy and not give up the battle. But what is the opposition's counter strategy?

It's not the pandemic. Nor the economy. It's 2022.

Diatribes with governors, notably São Paulo, indicate the absurd scenario that Bolsonaro seeks to impose on the nation and to which he intends to push the Republic. In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, until now the main health threat of this century, the 2022 electoral chessboard is awkwardly put on the table.

The pandemic – as I pointed out in the article “epidemiological flat earthism” – requires planning and coordination at the national level. Bolsonaro should take his eyes off the 2022 polls and put himself at the forefront of this, leading the fight against the problem. But nothing has been done since January, when the first information about the seriousness of what would come in the coming months arrived from China. It was urgent, then, to assess the country's situation and, based on that, to carry out the actions that should guarantee us resources and conditions to care for the sick.

This would imply negotiating with the productive sector and reversing production lines, with a view to guaranteeing the necessary inputs. But the federal government was hostage to “denialism” originating in the “hate office”. The result is what we see today: the doldrums of the Planalto was not able to ensure that the national industry produces and makes available not even… masks! Even for health professionals.

There is a lack of personal protective equipment, both in the SUS and in the private sector. Without PPE, risks increase. Everything is avoidable in a country that ranks 9th in the world economy, with a GDP of US$ 1,9 trillion. At the origin of this neglect and inaction has always been Bolsonaro’s disdain and his athletic conviction that everything is nothing more than a “little flu”. Its negligence paralyzed State representatives who could have acted and, in addition to demotivating, it disoriented the economic agents linked to the productive chain of equipment and health supplies.

Government supporters justify the paralysis and negligence in the face of COVID-19 by attributing certain airs of concern for the economy to presidential “denialism”. “It's the economy, stupid!”, the phrase made famous in the 1992 elections, which brought Bill Clinton to the presidency of the United States, was taken out of context in an attempt to reveal Bolsonaro's supposed concern for the economy, intending to oppose it to epidemiological urgencies.

I'm sure Bolsonaro cares about the economy. Evidently he could not be indifferent to the “pibinho” and the “dolão”. The GDP of 1,1% in 2019 and the dollar reaching R$5,00 are the most peremptory negation of the slogans that ensured that, “if Dilma is removed”, GDP will be “4% in the first year of government” and the “dollar will not rise”. Bolsonaro knows that in 2020 there will not even be the “pibinho” and “dolão” of 2019 and that this will imply electoral defeats for his bases, even with his support (or even because of it…), already this year in several capitals and many municipalities, opening a yellow light, putting his dream of re-election in 2022 at risk.

For that reason, it's not the pandemic. Never was. Nor is it the economy, including the lives of street vendors, who only seek to survive, but also genocidal traders, who tenaciously reject social isolation guidelines. Bolsonaro, rough, uneducated and simple-minded, seems to believe that these segments are “the economy”.

In this context, a kind of “pincer strategy” was created in the Plateau, the well-known military maneuver executed exquisitely by the genius of the Carthaginian Aníbal Barca to defeat the Romans in the battle of Cannas, two centuries BC. the enemy, create confusion and drive him out of control of his forces. This occurs when the tips of the pincers touch, completely encircling the opponent and defeating him [1].

The cabocla version put into motion by Bolsonarists seeks to find a scapegoat for the anticipated negative GDP, without greater intellectual demands for this, for 2020 and perhaps 2021, as there is no clarity about the consequences of COVID-19 in the world economy. No one doubts, however, that negative GDP will be the biggest voter against Bolsonaro. On the other hand, the last few weeks have been delineating a situation in which the pandemic has consolidated itself as a very serious problem that has led Bolsonaro to political isolation, severely criticized from the right and left. Hence the tweezers.

At one end of the tweezers is the president and his 'hate office' reiterating that “Brazil cannot stop”. A scenario is built in which the responsibility for the “pibinho” will fall on the lap of the governors who “stopped Brazil” and who will be blamed for the “recession, unemployment” and all the misfortunes that will come. Acolytes prepare themselves for the mantras “They didn’t let the man work”, “they support against”, “it will take many years to undo the destruction-of-the-country-caused-by-the-pe-tê-governments”, among other pearls . A speech whose purpose is to justify the failure of the economic policy imposed on the country by Paulo Guedes, under the blessing of Bolsonaro, his main responsible, and which was already proving to be disastrous even before the pandemic precipitation.

At the other end of the tweezers is the Minister of Health, Luiz Henrique Mandetta (DEM-MS), acting as a technical voice, which would be the pole of reason and wisdom within a government of criminals. He assumes a “speaking place” of science and the SUS (it should be noted that nowadays it is “good” to stand beside and defend the SUS). Mandetta, as well as his party, the DEM, are historical opponents and critics of the SUS and responsible for its chronic underfunding. A staunch opponent of the “More Doctors” program, he is one of those responsible for the current shortage of these professionals in various locations across the country, being an early supporter of Constitutional Amendment-95/2016, which froze SUS resources for 20 years, sadly known “EC of Death”.

Mandetta, make no mistake, he plays along with the Planalto, he is part of the “tweezers”. He was released to “talk about health” and can say everything that can be tolerated by the government and that does not punish the so-called “cattle” (the fanatical base, on which Bolsonaro supports his most irresponsible and inconsequential actions, such as 'giving a banana ' for the new coronavirus, hugging and kissing protesters at Praça dos Três Poderes, crossing the Federal District to meet with people and talk to the barbecue vendor in Taguatinga [2], harass the press and assign a professional clown the task of explain the “pibinho” to journalists, among other oddities). The “cattle” do not like Mandetta. Therefore, some members of the 'hate office', or close to it, among which the Minister of Education, Weintraub, should also speak about the pandemic and the actions of their respective portfolios.

In this context, the tweezers strategy aims to “prove reason” to the government, seeking to isolate the opposition, whatever the evolution of the pandemic in Brazil. With it, the government wants to ensure a scenario in which it will have a positive discourse on the facts, whatever happens. He will have, according to his version, ensured the functioning of the economy and also contained the pandemic, taking care of the sick. Thus, it is up to those who see the Bolsonaro government for what it effectively is (neo-fascist and a very serious threat to Democracy, the SUS and the Brazilian people), not to detach Mandetta from Bolsonaro, as they are, politically, what is usually identified as “flour”. from the same bag”.

But if Bolsonaro has his eyes on 2022, Brazil cannot wait that long. It is understandable, therefore, that party leaders committed to preserving the democratic rule of law, such as Ciro (PDT), Haddad (PT), Boulos (PSOL), Requião (MDB) and Dino (PCdoB), among others (PCB, PSB ), asked for Bolsonaro’s resignation, in a document released on 30/3/2020, entitled “Brazil cannot be destroyed by Bolsonaro” [3]. For these parties, “Bolsonaro is more than a political problem, it has become a public health problem. Bolsonaro lacks greatness. He should resign, which would be the least costly gesture to allow the country a democratic exit. He urgently needs to be contained and accounted for the crimes he is committing against our people.”

in the classic The art of war, Sun Tzu recommended that, when executing the pincer strategy, situations of complete encirclement of the enemy should be avoided, as the latter would react by fighting with greater ferocity. He considered it to be more prudent and effective, militarily, to open an escape route to the enemy, inducing him to give up the battle before closing the siege.

With “Brazil cannot be destroyed by Bolsonaro” the opposition announces its willingness to react to the tweezers and not give up the battle. But what is the opposition's counter strategy to contain Bolsonaro and not allow the 2022 electoral chess to be anticipated?

* Paulo Capel Narvai is Senior Professor of Public Health at USP


[1]. Tzu S. The Art of War. Sao Paulo: Lafonte; 2018.

[two]. Jair Bolsonaro visits commerce in the DF even after recommendation of isolation. By Renata Rusky. Brazilian Mail. 2 Mar 29. Available at:

[3]. Ciro, Haddad, Boulos, Requião, Dino and other leaders ask Bolsonaro to resign. South 21. 30 Mar 2020. Available at:

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