Red card

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By ANDRÉ SINGER*

Bolsonaro's promise that he will not allow the withdrawal of benefits from the poorest indicates a turning point in the direction of the government

Jair M. Bolsonaro said, during the week, that he will give a red card to anyone, within his government team, who talks about cutting benefits. From this statement some indications of the president's intentions can be inferred. The first thing worth noting is the style of language, the choice of a football-related metaphor aimed at an easy-to-understand form of communication, the option for a speech that is very direct and perhaps effective.

Bolsonaro is referring to the news that the economic team had studies that proposed as a source of funds for the Renda Brasil program the freezing of benefits both for needy people with special needs and for the elderly who receive pensions, a measure that would produce savings in the next two years of 10 billion reais.

He is warning the lower-income population that he will not take resources from them, which is something new. Until then, during his term as president, Bolsonaro had never behaved this way. Everything indicates that he is reorienting his actions according to the results of the popularity polls, as he visibly demonstrates that he is worried about the 2022 election and with the fact that to be re-elected he will have to guarantee the support of the majority. I believe that this is a turning point within the Bolsonaro government.

This does not mean that this issue is resolved. There is a change of language, the deliberate choice of a popular language aimed at the lower-income population, for that portion that was not the object of special concern by the Bolsonaro government until very recently. However, from an effective point of view, it still remains to solve the economic problem so that change does not remain only in discourse.

In order to change the situation in practice, it is necessary to guarantee sources of resources for this part of the population. President Bolsonaro has said that despite being a program established in the Lula government, the Bolsa Família program will be maintained. In the situation we are in – under the effects of a serious economic crisis, resulting from the pandemic – it will not be enough just to maintain this program, it will have to be expanded, if the current president really seeks the support of the lower-income population.

For this, the government needs new resources. Bolsonaro will have to face his own economic team, committed to a liberal policy in which there is no room for expanding programs such as Bolsa Família.

*André Singer is a professor of political science at USP. Author, among other books, of Lulism in crisis (Company of Letters).

Text established from an interview given to Gustavo Xavier, on USP radio.

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