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LATIN AMERICA | 29-09-2022 00:38

Scandals, Covid, deforestation: Brazil under Jair Bolsonaro

A recap of the defining moments of Jair Bolsonaro's presidency so far.

Brazil's first elected far-right president Jair Bolsonaro, dubbed the "Trump of the Tropics," has been accused of letting Covid-19 rage out of control and allowing the Amazon to burn during his controversial first four years at the helm.

Here is a recap of the defining moments of his presidency so far:

 

First far-right president

On October 28, 2018, Brazil elects Bolsonaro more than three decades after the end of the country's military dictatorship, for which Bolsonaro, a former Army captain, is openly nostalgic. On New Year's Day 2019, Bolsonaro takes office vowing to "restore order" and launches a crusade against crime, corruption and "leftist ideology."

 

Pro-gun bill

Bolsonaro moves quickly to relax gun laws in one of the world's most violent countries, and dramatically widens the definition of self-defence. The Supreme Court has been asked to rule on whether some of his decrees are constitutional.

 

Rules from hospital

Bolsonaro, who was stabbed on the campaign trail in 2018, undergoes abdominal surgery in January, 2019. During his two-week hospital stay, he continues to run the country from his bed. He was readmitted in mid-2021 to treat the after-effects of the attack, which required more surgery. He was admitted to hospital twice in 2022.

 

Amazon burns

In mid-2019, massive fires caused by deforestation scorch whole sections of the Amazon rainforest, provoking a chorus of global criticism for Bolsonaro's policies. Under his presidency, the destruction of Brazil's portion of the world's biggest rainforest has increased by 75 percent compared to the previous decade. Bolsonaro has been heavily criticised for undermining the powers of supervisory authorities in the Amazon and for encouraging mining and agriculture in the protected areas. In January, 2021, iconic indigenous chief and environmentalist Raoni Metuktire brings a case against Bolsonaro before the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity, accusing him of persecuting indigenous groups.

 

Pensions and privatisation

Bolsonaro in 2019 increases the retirement age as part of an austerity drive and begins selling off state assets, including the electricity provider, Rio de Janeiro's water company and some 20 ports and airports.

 

Denying Covid

In a series of controversial moves that spark protests, Bolsonaro dismisses the coronavirus in March 2020 as a "little flu," defies World Health Organization recommendations and slams what he calls "scorched earth" lockdown measures and masks. Brazil has the second-highest Covid death toll in the world with more than 680,000 dead by late August, 2022. Bolsonaro is currently on his fourth health minister of the pandemic. The president is also being investigated by the public prosecutor for allegedly failing to act on an embezzlement tip-off regarding coronavirus vaccine purchases. A Brazilian Senate committee has asked that he be charged with nine crimes over his management of the Covid-19 pandemic, including "crimes against humanity." Tens of thousands of demonstrators have taken to the streets to demand Bolsonaro's impeachment for his management of the health crisis.

 

String of corruption scandals

In November, 2020, a Rio prosecutor called for the prosecution of Flavio Bolsonaro, a senator and the president's eldest son, for embezzlement and money-laundering. The case was later scrapped by a court. In June 2021, then-environment minister Ricardo Salles resigns, suspected of supporting the illegal export of Amazonian timber. More recently it was the turn of education minister Milton Ribeiro, who fell on his sword over allegations of influence-peddling at the behest of Bolsonaro.

 

Attacks on electoral system

In August 2021 the Superior Electoral Court decided to investigate Bolsonaro for his constant and unproven attacks on the legitimacy of the electronic voting system, established in 1996. The Supreme Court meanwhile orders investigations against Bolsonaro and his entourage, in particular for disseminating disinformation.

 

Petrobras crisis

Between March and May, 2022 Bolsonaro fires two presidents of the public oil company Petrobras as well as his energy minister due to disagreements over rises in fuel prices. On July 13, less than three months from the presidential election, parliament approves a government plan for handouts for the less well-off.

 

– AFP

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