the strength of society


By Andrew Singer*

With his last actions, Jair Bolsonaro crossed a kind of red line. Faced with this, people decided to say: enough! And it wasn't just people who were already in the opposition camp.

The political consequences

The first political consequence of the coronavirus pandemic stems from its impact on the economy. The expansion of the virus indirectly caused a significant drop in the price of oil, which, in turn, caused a generalized drop in stock prices on stock exchanges around the world, a movement that has been repeated amidst strong fluctuations. In this scenario, the currencies of almost all countries devalued against the US dollar.

In reality, the situation of the world economy was no longer good, it did not constitute a solid containment barrier for the recession that, everything indicates, will be provoked by the coronovirus pandemic. Brazil, in turn, will not be able to escape the consequences of this global recession. The Brazilian economy was not doing well either. The 2019 GDP growth result, 1,1%, showed that the Brazilian economy is stagnating at a low level, with high unemployment rates.

Faced with this announced economic scenario that evidently has a direct impact on politics, the reaction of the government of Jair Bolsonaro demonstrates some confusion. At first, the president, still in the US, made a statement saying that the epidemic was not important. At the same time, here in Brazil, its economy minister, Paulo Guedes, was putting pressure on Congress to approve 19 measures that are stalled in the legislature. The number alone, 19, however, already indicates that it is not very clear what the government really intends to do to face the economic consequences of the pandemic.

The other political consequence of the pandemic is the handling of the public health issue. The sanitary problem will require a great, concentrated, organized effort and also investments by the national State.

After the pots

Taking into account all the precautions that should be taken, I believe that the situation has changed with the pots. It has changed not in the sense that something will happen overnight or that it will change from water to wine, but something new starts to happen. The first pot, on Tuesday, March 17, was a spontaneous demonstration, not called by organized movements, a demonstration that spread across the entire country and a demonstration that took place, above all, in middle-class neighborhoods. It does not hurt to remember that these middle-class neighborhoods were places where Bolsonaro obtained great support and votes in the 2018 elections.

We are, therefore, facing an important shift in sentiment. I attribute this change to the attitudes adopted by President Jair Bolsonaro in the days leading up to the pots and pans, in particular his decision to attend a demonstration in Brasília on March 15. It was a demonstration against the National Congress and against the STF. He could not have supported, let alone participated in, that demonstration, because the Constitution requires the president not to impede the free exercise of powers that are parallel to the executive branch.

In addition, he openly disrespected the guidelines of his Minister of Health, creating a brutal contrast between medical guidelines in the face of a very serious pandemic and the actions of the President of the Republic himself. At that moment, Jair Bolsonaro crossed a kind of red line. Faced with this, people decided to say: enough! And it wasn't just people who were already in the opposition camp.

It is not possible to predict what will happen. Everything indicates, however, that even if it is not a radical transformation, the situation has begun to change. Society began to mobilize. Society cannot do everything, it is necessary to observe how political actors, how institutions will react, but despite that, society can do a lot.

*André Singer is a professor of political science at USP.

Article established from interviews given to Gustavo Xavier on USP radio

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