Watch: The Grave, Three-Pronged Crisis Crippling Brazil and Imperiling the Bolsonaro Presidency

The confluence of these crises has placed Brazil in the greatest turmoil and danger since its 1985 redemocratization.

BRASILIA, BRAZIL - MARCH 20: Jair Bolsonaro President of Brazil takes off his protective mask to speak to journalists during a press conference about outbreak of the coronavirus (COVID - 19) at the Planalto Palace on March 20, 2020 in Brasilia, Brazil. (Photo by Andressa Anholete/Getty Images)

Jair Bolsonaro, president of Brazil, takes off his protective mask to speak to journalists during a press conference about outbreak of the coronavirus at the Planalto Palace on March 20, 2020 in Brasília, Brazil.

Photo: Andressa Anholete/Getty Images

Brazil currently faces a confluence of at least three grave crises — one of public health, another economic, and other political and corruption-related — that has left the largest country in Latin America and the world’s sixth-most populous nation in greater turmoil and danger than at any time since its 1985 redemocratization. Our newest episode of SYSTEM UPDATE, which is roughly 30 minutes long and debuts on The Intercept’s YouTube channel at 10 a.m. ET, examines how one man — Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro — has single-handedly caused and then radically escalated each of these crises.

While several major world leaders minimized or even mocked the seriousness of the coronavirus pandemic in January and into February — U.S. President Donald Trump and U.K. Prime Minster Boris Johnson among the most prominent — all of them have changed course in how they talk about and manage the pandemic (Johnson ended up in Intensive Care after contracting the virus). But not Bolsonaro.

Virtually alone among heads of major governments, he has not only maintained his original posture but encouraged Brazilians to do the same, most notoriously by leaving his own quarantine after being suspected of having been infected to greet crowds of supporters by shaking hands and taking selfies and, more recently, deliberately going into crowds gathered outside supermarkets and shopping malls. When his health minister began raising rapidly in approval ratings because of his daily briefings that followed the scientific consensus and often contradicted Bolsonaro’s own statements by encouraging isolation and debunking unproven cures, Bolsonaro fired him.

All of this led the Washington Post to declare him the “worst” of all world leaders, while The Atlantic crowned him leader of the coronavirus denial movement. And this has culminated in an exploding pandemic that has placed Brazil — a country which even prior to this pandemic was plagued by a barely functional public health system, extreme urban density, and massive wealth inequality — on an epidemiological curve at least as bad as, and likely worse, than Italy, Spain, and other nations who were so tragically devastated by the virus early on.

While all that is happening, the Brazilian economy is in virtual freefall, with the Brazilian real plummeting to all-time lows, the stock market tumblings, and economic growth nonexistent. But perhaps the most serious crisis of all is the one precipitated last weekend by the very dramatic resignation from Bolsonaro’s government of his once-beloved Justice Minister Sergio Moro, who used the occasion of his resignation to hurl extremely serious accusations of corruption and criminality at the president. The most serious of those is that he interfered in ongoing criminal investigations by the Federal Police, at least two of which — as we have extensively reported in the past — have as their targets Bolsonaro’s own sons as well as the family’s connections to the country’s most violent and dangerous paramilitary gangs, one of whom was at the center of the March 2018 assassination of Rio de Janeiro City Council Member Marielle Franco. Impeachment has entered, and is growing in, mainstream discourse.

The episode covers not only the fascinating and horrifying specifics of these crises and their consequences for Brazilians and Brazilian democracy, but also the recent political and cultural history of Brazil — including its U.S.-supported 1964 military coup and resulting 21-year brutal dictatorship that followed — in order to understand the unique threats Bolsonaro poses. Brazil is a country filled with vital resources (including the Amazon), a rich history and culture, and 220 million people long prevented by inequality, repression, and corruption from fulfilling their potential. These crises makes the fulfillment of that potential appear further away than ever, as a dark trinity of a public health disaster, economic collapse, and severe political instability are combining into a toxic brew, led by a president who seems to crave disorder and civil strife as a pretext for ushering in the dictatorship-era climate he has spent decades praising.

You can watch the program at its 10 a.m. ET debut here, with a transcript posted later, or on The Intercept’s YouTube channel.

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Updated: Monday, May 4, 5:27 p.m. EDT
This article was updated to add a transcript of the program:

Glenn Greenwald: Welcome to a new edition of System Update. I’m Glenn Greenwald.

This episode focuses on the multiple, fascinating and very grave scandals currently engulfing the Bolsonaro presidency in Braziil. Scandals which carry a very substantial possibility of destroying the Bolsonaro government entirely.

There are multiple scandals which the Brazilian president is currently confronting, but two in particular are the most serious, the first of which is the debacle of his handling of the Corona virus pandemic, which has turned into an international embarrassment. In mid April The Washington Post noted that while many world leaders botched their handling of the Corona virus pandemic at the start, Bolsonaro “is the worst”. The Atlantic in late March proclaimed Bolsonaro to be the leader of the Corona virus denial movement worldwide. And a New York Times news article in early April read in the headlines that Bolsonaro is defiant and isolated as he denies the seriousness of the Corona virus pandemic.

Bolsonaro’s stubborn refusal to change course the way other leaders have done and acknowledge the gravity of this crisis has created not only serious political problems for his presidency in a country where people now believe that this virus poses very serious threats, but has also damaged public health in a very severe way, as Brazil, despite still facing a sparse number of tests, is now on the epidemiological curve worse than some of the countries that confronted the virus in the most tragic ways early on, including Italy and Spain.


HOST: So things like city and state authorities and businesses and so on, they seem to be pretty switched on to the risk. But the one person who seemed to be fairly flippant about it from the start is the president.

REPORTER: All of this is despite, not because of the president, jair Bolsonaro. From the very beginning. He’s dismissed this disease, calling it a little sniffle and going out in public right after the social distancing guidelines were introduced. Over the past few weeks, he has taken to social media and national television to slam social distancing guidelines, saying that it’s ruining Brazil’s economy and urging local governments to abandon their strategies of closing schools and businesses. He calls those strategies scorched earth. He’s blamed the media for spreading hysteria. 

At the same time that his handling of the Corona virus pandemic has become a domestic and an international disgrace, Bolsonaro in what might be a crisis even more threatening, now faces a very serious corruption and criminality scandal. It’s been the case since the very first days of the Bolsonaro presidency in early twenty nineteen that investigations involving suspected corruption and criminality on the part of his sons posed a threat to the Bolsonaro presidency.

But that threat severely escalated earlier this week, when Bolsonaro was once beloved Justice Minister, Sergio Moro, who led the world renowned anti-corruption probe that, among other things, resulted in former President Lula da Silva being imprisoned at a time when he led all presidential polls in 2017 has left the government in a very dramatic way. He announced over the weekend that he was resigning, held a press conference and accused President Bolsonaro of very grave corruption, specifically trying to fire the head of the federal police for corrupt motives, at exactly the time that the Brazilian press was reporting that the federal police was closing in on several criminal cases involving Bolsonaro sons.


SERGIO MORO: The big problem with making this exchange is that first, there would be a violation of a promise by President Bolsonaro that was made initially: that I would have carte blanche. Secondly, there would be no cause for this replacement idea. It would be clear that there is political interference in the Federal Police. You know, I still looked for an alternative solution to try to avoid a political crisis during a pandemic. I think the focus should be on fighting the pandemic. But I understood that I could not put aside my commitment to the rule of law.

The president really wants me out of office. He doesn’t want me in this post. And in carrying out his dismissal of the director of the federal police, I don’t see much justification to stay. I’m going to start packing my things and I’m going to arrange my resignation letters here. 

And the fact that it’s now Sergio Moro, the monster created by the Bolsonaro movement, who they turned into the icon and high priest of ethics and probity and law and order, who has now become the principal accuser of President Bolsonaro, has created enormous political problems for him that are unprecedented in the roughly 18 months that he’s governed Brazil.

While these two enormous crises are taking place, the Corona virus pandemic, as well as the criminal and corruption scandal arising out of Moro’s accusations, there are multiple other crises swirling around the president. To begin with, the Brazilian real the Brazilian currency has collapsed to an all time low against both the U.S. dollar and the euro. The Brazilian stock market is bottoming out. And on top of all of that, the economic growth which Brazilians were promised when Bolsonaro trumpeted the appointment of his new economics minister in early 2019, Paulo Guedes, who was trained at the University of Chicago, who admires the austerity measures of Chile’s Augusto Pinochet that helped the oligarchical class at the expense of the vast majority of the country’s poor. None of that economic growth has materialized, quite the contrary. Brazil remained stagnant economically, is now not experiencing economic growth, at the same time that unemployment is exploding.

So the economic picture is as grim for Bolsonaro as the political picture, the criminal and corruption picture and the corona virus pandemic are. And it’s happening all at the same time.

Now, to really understand the full context of what’s happening in Brazil, it’s necessary to understand the political and historical context for the country. Brazil is, no matter what you think of it. An extraordinarily important nation for the entire world. To begin with, it is the sixth most populous country on the planet. It is the largest country and the largest democracy in Latin America, by far the most influential country in that on that continent. It possesses vast oil reserves, including pre-salt reserves, which have become increasingly valuable as the world’s oil supply is depleted, and it’s in control of the vast majority of the single most important environmental asset to avert climate catastrophe, which is the Amazon.

Brazil’s history is extremely important for understanding the current crisis as well. During the Cold War, in the 1950s 1960s, Brazil tried very hard to stay out of the crosshairs of both the United States and the Soviet Union, trying to be the puppet of neither side. They were building their own independent democracy that had the potential to spawn liberal democracy throughout the region of Latin America, which never had it.

A 1946 constitution had become a model around the world for how a developing country could implement the values of liberal democracy. And throughout the 50s and 60s, its democracy blossomed. And all of that came crashing down when in 1961, Brazilians elected a ticket of a center right president and a center left vice-president. And in 1962, the Center-Right president resigned, which elevated the center left president João Goulart to the presidency. He was no communist. He really wasn’t even a socialist. He was simply a center left reformist. But his reforms, such as modest land reform and rent controls, infuriated the Kennedy administration, which feared that Brazil, under the Center-Left democratically elected government, was moving closer to Moscow.

They first tried cajoling and pressuring and threatening the Brazilian government to become more hospitable to free market policies that Washington insisted on, especially in its own backyard. And when that failed, the United States worked with Brazilian generals to overthrow in a military coup, the Goulart presidency and instituted what became a 21 year, very brutal military dictatorship, a right wing military dictatorship supported by both the U.S. and the U.K.. They trained the Brazilian generals, now in charge of Brazil in an unelected manner, in the arts of torture, imprisoning and even killing dissidents and shutting down all institutions, including the Congress and the courts that could have opposed them. For 21 years, Brazil lived through a very dark period under military rule supported by the U.S. and U.K., because the U.S. simply couldn’t withstand a center left government in the biggest country in Latin America, even though it was democratically elected. So, Brazilian democracy for more than two decades was destroyed.

And part of that military dictatorship included a young army captain named Jair Bolsonaro. Brazil, wantin to democratize, redemocratize in 1985 and then had its first direct presidential elections in 1989, had adopted as essentially a cultural taboo any attempts to apologize for the crimes of the military dictatorship, let alone to praise dictatorship as a superior form of government. In fact, apologizing for the dictatorship is a criminal offense in Brazil, and yet it’s one that the young army captain Jair Bolsonaro routinely violated from the start. He ran for city council in Rio de Janeiro on a platform of raising salaries for soldiers and defending the police when they killed innocent people and quickly elevated himself to the federal Congress based on a far right, law and order, pro-military platform. And for the next 30 years, Jair Bolsonaro continued to praise the military dictatorship as a superior form of government than democracy. He praised the torturers who imposed the most brutal interrogation methods on dissidents.

In 2010, Brazil elected its first female president, the center left Dilma Rousseff of the Worker’s Party, founded by Lula da Silva. And Dilma herself, had become a rebel, a guerilla, against the military dictatorship and was brutally tortured by one of the most notorious torturers of that regime. And in 2016, when the Congress, which then included Congressman Bolsonaro, voted to impeach Dilma, and one after the next stood up to explain their vote both Jair Bolsonaro and his son Eduardo, who was also in the Congress, stood up and praised the dictatorship and specifically praised the colonels who had personally tortured Dilma Rousseff when justifying why they were voting to impeach her. So they’ve always been pro dictator, pro military rule and anti-democracy. And that was the context of the 2018 election.

And that’s the reason that Brazilian democracy, despite experiencing all kinds of turbulent events such as impeachment and crises and corruption scandals, has remained a fairly stable democracy since it read democratised 35 years ago, has never been more imperiled than it is today.

Bolsonaro’s handling of the Corona virus pandemic has been remarkable even when set against the behavior of the leaders who have handled it most poorly. There were many leaders early on, including Donald Trump, the United States, Boris Johnson in the UK and other leaders in Europe and Asia, who minimized the threat of the virus. But after February, when they saw the gravity of what this virus really was, the contagiousness that it possessed, the lethality of the virus for a large sectors of the population, radically changed course and began advocating for isolation, begun speaking of the virus in a much more serious manner. Bolsonaro has stood alone in continuing to refuse to do so. To this very day, he minimizes the public health dangers posed by the virus, emphasizes the need for Brazil to get back to work, and constantly mocks the seriousness of the disease.

As many of you may recall, in March, Bolsonaro, with a large entourage, visited Donald Trump at a state visit in Mar a Lago. And when Bolsonaro returned with an entourage of almost two dozen aides, it quickly was discovered that virtually all of them tested positive for the Corona virus, leading to suspicions that obviously Bolsonaro, who has been around them, who flew with them, must have it as well.

And yet Bolsonaro proclaimed on social media that his test was negative. He twice proclaimed that he tested negative, and yet he has refused to this very day, despite numerous requests, to show that test.

It is even more suspicious, given the fact that Fox News reported in late March that Bolsonaro tested positive for a Corona virus. And the reason Fox News reported that was because Bolsonaro son, the congressman, Eduardo Bolsonaro told Fox News that his father’s test had come back and was positive. This has obviously led to suspicions that Bolsonaro was lying when he said that he tested negative.

And the reason this is so important is not just because the public has a right to know about the health of its elected leaders, nor because lying to the public about a serious matter is an important aspect for the public to know. But also because Bolsonaro, in order to highlight what he believes to be the lack of seriousness of the disease, repeatedly left the quarantine that doctors had suggested he voluntarily undertake in order to leave the presidential palace and go greet hundreds of supporters, to go out into Brasilia, the nation’s capital, to markets and supermarkets and shopping malls, in order to mingle with large crowds of people. And obviously, if he was, in fact, infected with the virus, as he did that, it’s almost certain that he passed the virus to dozens, potentially hundreds of people. And only now has a large center-right newspaper in Brazil, Estadão, obtained a court ruling that Bolsonaro is required within 48 hours to show the actual exams on the grounds that the public has the right to know.

But all of that behavior – going out into crowds, mocking the virus is nothing more than a little flu or a cold, telling people who are under 60 that they have nothing to worry about – created a very serious scandal and paralyzed the country’s ability to manage the pandemic.

All at the same time, Bolsonaro’s health minister, who he chose, and who is a political ally but also a medical doctor, had been following science and giving daily press briefings in which he was contradicting Bolsonaro virtually on a daily basis, urging the country to remain in quarantine and isolation, to socially distance, to emphasize that the virus is very lethal and very dangerous. And most importantly of all, warning the country that the cures that Bolsonaro was touting were wildly unproven and offered no scientific hope because no studies had demonstrated their efficacy.

Those daily briefings caused this minister, Mandetta, to skyrocket in popularity at exactly the same time that Bolsonaro popularity was plummeting. And as a result of that popularity increasing as a result of his continuous contradicting a Bolsonaro, because he was following the science as a medical doctor, Bolsonaro two weeks ago fired his popular health minister, which only worsened his political problems even further and made the country even less capable of handling the pandemic.

Even before this pandemic, Brazil’s public health care system was virtually dysfunctional. People who have heart attacks or strokes often wait hours, if not longer, in waiting rooms of emergency rooms and often die without ever even being treated. That’s the public health system in Brazil prior to the pandemic.

Needless to say, the ability of hospitals, public hospitals, to manage a pandemic of this sort, that is spreading especially throughout very dense poor favelas in large cities such as São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, states in the northern part of Brazil, including the capital city of Amazonas, Manaus, are now in collapse in terms of their health care system. We’re seeing mass graves. All of this is really creating a grave public health problem for Brazil that is yet to reach the epidemiological peak of this virus.

Some studies show that Brazil is undercounting by at least seven times the number of confirmed cases and the number of fatalities due to covid-19 because of the lack of task. They only count confirmed cases and deaths when the test comes back positive, it takes two weeks for the tests to come back. Oftentimes people die before they’re even tested. The official numbers dramatically are undercounting the real numbers.

And yet, even the official numbers are starting to put Brazil, not just on the Italy and Spain and United States curve, but worse than that. And the country is realizing that weeks and weeks of messaging from Bolsonaro that this is nothing more than a flu, that it’s just a little cold. His behavior and going out into the public even while he was likely infected, encouraging other people to do so, has really placed hundreds of millions of people in Brazil, the 220 million people who live in this country, in very severe danger.

The crises that exploded this week in terms of corruption and criminality on the part of Bolsonaro’s family has obviously exacerbated Bolsonaro is very tenuous political standing. In fact, it knocked the Corona virus pandemic off the front pages for days, even as Brazil was finally arriving at the high end of the curve.

Over the weekend, Sergio Moro Bolsonaro as justice minister announced that he was quitting, and when he announced that he was quitting, he convened a press conference and lobbed very serious accusations at President Bolsonaro, specifically accusing him of trying to interfere in ongoing criminal investigations, many of which are aimed at Bolsonaro as close political allies and his sons and even Bolsonaro himself.

Some of the most serious scandals involve his senator son, Flavio Bolsonaro, his eldest son, who has long been a member of the Rio de Janeiro state legislature, and then was elected along with Bolsonaro’s presidential bid in 2018 to the federal Senate.

In March of 2018, as many of you probably recall, the African-American LGBT city councilwoman, who was raised in one of Rio de Janeiro’s largest favelas, Marielle Franco, was brutally assassinated on the streets of Rio de Janeiro at 9:30 at night.


Reporter: Despite the music and dancing, this is not a happy occasion. Protesters rally in the streets of São Paulo to mourn the murder of a prominent politician once described as a tireless social warrior.

The biggest marches were in her hometown of Rio de Janeiro, where tens of thousands of Brazilians gathered outside the city’s council. This is the woman whose killing has provoked such outrage: Marielle Franco. The 38 year old councilor, has become a voice for gay and black rights, as well as fighting against police violence in poor areas of the city. Police officials say she was deliberately targeted. Franco was shot four times in the head and her driver was also killed. Her assistant, who was sitting in the back, survived. 

Marielle Franco was in the middle of working on all kinds of investigations involving police abuse and denouncing the growing influence of paramilitary gangs here in Brazil, which are gangs composed of former police officers and military officials and current police and military agents as well, who rule Brazil’s largest cities by force and make enormous amounts of money. They’re essentially mafias that operate along the same lines as mafias, but are even more dangerous because they’re agents of the state, or former agents of the state, with huge amounts of weaponry and training from the state.

It was quickly assumed and then determined by the police investigating Marielle’s murder that the way in which her murder was carried out, with such skill, with such adeptness, could mean that there was only a small number of militias composed of former police officers who possibly could have killed her because only former police officers understand how to carry out a murder with that degree of precision and that degree of skill.

And finally, a year later, two police officers, former police officers, were arrested for being the killers, one who was driving the car, the other for being the actual shooter. And there were immediately all sorts of connections between those killers on the one hand and the Bolsonaro family on the other. To begin with, the killer of Marielle lived in Jair Bolsonaro’s private condominium unit, his gated community, which for a sprawling city like Rio de Janeiro, is an amazing coincidence. Photos surfaced of Bolsonaro and his family members with those militia members who actually pulled the trigger and did the driving. It turned out that Bolsonaro youngest son dated the daughter of one of the two people arrested for Marielle’s murder – all kinds of connections between the Bolsonaro family and the killers who carried out that murder.

But by far the scandal’s most serious component was revealed shortly after Bolsonaro was inaugurated in 2019, when it turned out that the federal police, while working in conjunction with the Rio de Janeiro city police, discovered the specific militia that had carried out that murder-for-hire. It’s called the crime office and it’s notorious for being one of the most skilled and effective murder-for-hire militias in all of Brazil. And when the police raided the top six leaders of that militia, of that crime office, the leader himself ended up being able to escape and became a fugitive.

And it was discovered that Flavio Bolsonaro, Jair Bolsonaro oldest son, for a decade, employed in his cabinet in the Rio de Janeiro state legislature the wife and the mother of the leader of that militia that murdered Marielle. On top of all of that, federal prosecutors in Rio de Janeiro had discovered enormous amounts of evidence proving all kinds of money laundering schemes and kickback schemes where Flavio Bolsonaro would employ dozens of people in his cabinet, in the state legislature, but none of them would actually work. They were phantom employees. They would keep 10 percent of their salary and kickback 90 or 80 percent of their salary to Flavio Bolsonaro. And all of that was coordinated by a close aide of Flavio Bolsonaro, a close friend of Jair Bolsonaro, who disappeared and has been linked to Rio de Janeiro’s most dangerous militia. So this investigation has been closing in on Jair Bolsonaro oldest son, Flavio, for the last 18 months and reports were that the federal police were very close to finally proving that Flavio Bolsonaro has corrupt links to these militias and was engaged in illegal practices involving money laundering and these salaries.

At the same time, the Bolsonaro movement has been using a very notorious and very vicious and criminal fake news ring against any critics or enemies of the Bolsonaro movement in the Bolsonaro government. And by a fake news ring. I don’t just mean tweets and posts with false claims about people, I mean fabricated documents, forged materials designed to purport to be genuine conversations between well-known politicians and journalists. It was used against me when I was reporting on the corruption on the part of Sergio Moro, and it’s been used against numerous other people. And it’s long been suspected that what is now called the cabinet of hate is overseen and managed by President Bolsonaro’s other son, Carlos Bolsonaro, who has been a longtime city councilman in Rio de Janeiro who worked directly with the Bolsonaro campaign and their communications network that was very successful in spreading fake news, and now oversees President and Bolsonaro was political and communications operations. And this fake news ring, as I said, doesn’t just publish false allegations against people, but uses forgery and fabrication and armies of robots in order to smear and destroy people’s reputations, and it is a criminal offense in Brazil. It’s been investigated by the federal police. And two weeks ago, reports began to emerge in the Brazilian media that the federal police were close to arresting Carlos Bolsonaro for being the mastermind of this fake news operation – something that has long been suspected and is now being proven.

And it’s in that context with the federal police closing in on two of his sons – not for minor crimes, but for very grave crimes, including the family’s links to the most dangerous and criminal paramilitary gangs in Brazil, including the one that assassinated Marielle Franco, not just using violence, but all kinds of money laundering and kickback schemes to enrich themselves – did Bolsonaro, after first trying to replace the head of Rio de Janeiro’s federal police force back six months ago, now is trying to fire the head of the federal police. And that is what caused Sergio Moro to resign in protest into accused Bolsonaro of corruption, in part because Sergio Moro likely wants to run against Bolsonaro in 2022 and had to separate at some point. And with Bolsonaro popularity collapsing due to all of these crises figured, now is a good time to do so.

It was also a power struggle over who would control the Federal Police. When Sergio Moro joined the government he was promised he would be able to, and he viewed this as a betrayal of himself. But also he didn’t want to be associated with this corrupt attempt to protect the criminality and corruption of Bolsonaro’s family and Bolsonaro son. So we didn’t just quit, but he blew the whistle on everything Bolsonaro was doing.

As a result of Moro doing that, there is now a full scale war between supporters of Sergio Moro on the one hand and the Bolsonaro movement on the other. Sergio Moro has become the primary target of that hate mob and the fake news network over the internet. Something remarkable to see, since I had been the target of that, and others had been the target of that, when we were reporting on and investigating and denouncing Sergio Moro himself. He never cared about it before, but now he is denouncing it.

But this war between Sergio Moro and his followers on the one hand, and Jair Bolsonaro and his followers on the other, has created by far the biggest problem yet for President Bolsonaro. Just this week, based on those allegations voiced by Sergio Moro, the Supreme Court of Brazil authorized the opening of a criminal investigation to determine whether President Bolsonaro committed crimes and trying to interfere in ongoing criminal investigations.

Impeachment, which had been something advocated by a small minority of members of Congress on the left, is now a mainstream idea being talked about by numerous members of Congress and major media figures, including members of President Bolsonaro former party, the party line on which he was elected before he left that party and anger about a year ago.

The former Center-Right president of Brazil, the highly respected among the bourgeoisie, Fernando Henrique Cardoso, himself has come out and said the Bolsonaro should resign, and if he doesn’t, he should be impeached. The only question is what the Brazilian military is thinking. Bolsonaro’s vice president currently is a general in the Brazilian military. If he were to resign or if he were impeached, it would mean that the military would be back in control of Brazilian democracy for the first time since it redemocratized back in 1985. So it’s a very grave measure to consider with very serious repercussions.

But whatever else is true, it’s starting to appear extremely unlikely that Jair Bolsonaro will be able to complete the four year term to which he was elected in 2018. As this virus spreads throughout favelas, as the death toll mounts, as the economy continues to collapse, and as there are more and more probes into the criminality, the serious criminality of Jair Bolsonaro son, of his movement and he himself, it is very difficult to envision how we will be able to survive this political crisis short of ending Brazilian democracy, short of a military coup. And that right now is why the country, everyone would agree as a consensus, is at a crossroad between whether it will continue as an actual vibrant democracy, which seems impossible with Jair Bolsonaro clinging to power, or whether there will be anti-democratic measures invoked in order to protect Bolsonaro from things like impeachment and increasing pressure to resign as his popularity plummets.

In one sense, it’s a very sad day for Brazil, which has always been a country filled with incredible people, a very vibrant and rich culture. Some of the most beautiful diversity of any country on the earth – not superficial diversity, but very substantive and profound diversity. It’s a country that has had its potential stymied for decades by very severe economic and wealth inequality. It looked for the first time under President Lula when it was experiencing economic growth, when social programs had been implemented to lift millions and millions of people out of poverty, that Brazil could finally realize its full potential.

And yet corruption scandals, an impeachment crisis in 2016, economic crises of a very severe kind, and now all of the problems ushered in by Bolsonaro as election, have put the country further back on that course than it’s been probably since redemocratization.

But at the same time, where there’s chaos, where there’s confusion, and where there’s conflict, there also can be opportunity for the population to finally unite in defense of these democratic values that are now under assault by a very fanatical, very extreme and increasingly unhinged and irrational political movement that continues to remain deeply loyal to the Brazilian president.

Thank you very much for listening to this latest episode. If you like these episodes, you can subscribe to the Intercepts YouTube channel that has not just our weekly show and sometimes more than our weekly show, but also several other shows that are producing very compelling political and cultural content. So subscribe to the YouTube’s intercept channel. And thank you very much for watching. 

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