Brazil: Bolsonaro, a strategic retreat from the coronavirus crisis

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Apparently it is no longer just a “little flu” for him: President Jair Bolsonaro ousted his Minister of Health, placed massive vaccine orders and even began to wear a mask against the devastating COVID-19 in Brazil.

But we should not expect a radical turnaround: if the far-right leader now recognizes the importance of vaccination that he has so decried, he does not seem in any way willing to moderate his anti-rhetoric discourse. -confinement.

“I don’t see any lasting change, his beliefs remain the same. It is rather a strategic retreat, due to pressure from some of its political allies, especially in Parliament, because the pandemic is out of control “, with more than 279,000 dead, Geraldo Monteiro told AFP , political scientist at the State University of Rio de Janeiro (Uerj).

This political pressure increased last week, in particular because of the Lula effect, with which looms a titanic duel for the presidential election of 2022. The ex-left-wing president was vaccinated in front of the cameras and attacked from the outset, the “imbecile” management of the health crisis by Bolsonaro.

Management disapproved of 61% by Brazilians, according to a recent poll.

“The hope of a change of course lies in electoral pressure, the only thing that has an effect on Bolsonaro”, we read Tuesday in an editorial in the daily Estado de S. Paulo.

“More aggressive phase”

The head of state has resolved to change his health minister for the third time since the start of the pandemic, sacking his trusted man, Eduardo Pazuello, a general with no medical experience, to name Marcelo Queiroga, a cardiologist recognized by his peers.

“If General Pazuello remained so long (10 months) in his post, it is because he did whatever the president wanted,” said Andreia Sadi, political columnist at TV Globo.

“But he was pushed to change course because he saw that people wanted above all to be vaccinated.”

A few hours before announcing the change at the head of the ministry, the president offered the general an honorable exit, leaving him to announce on Monday the acquisition of 100 million doses of the vaccine from Pfizer and 38 million from the Janssen ( Johnson & Johnson).

“Pazuello has done a good job, its management has been good”, assured Mr. Bolsonaro, but “from now on we are moving to a more aggressive phase in the fight against the virus”.

Submachine gun syringe

An illustration of this new “aggressiveness”: the drawing shared on social networks by his son, Senator Flavio Bolsonaro, showing a giant syringe placed on a machine gun, with the caption: “our weapon is the vaccine”.

A message addressed to his supporters from the start, no doubt confused by this change of course of a president who previously assured that he would not be vaccinated, because the injections could “transform people into crocodiles”.

For epidemiologist Julio Croda, of the University of Mato Grosso do Sul, if this new presidential posture on the subject of vaccination is “a positive change”, it would however be necessary to go further “to avoid a total collapse of the health system “.

But “containment is an unbearable thing for President Bolsonaro, so it will be difficult for the new minister to put in place any new policy,” he continues.

Also cardiologist, Ludhmila Hajjar, who was approached to succeed General Pazuello, went to Brasilia on Sunday to meet the head of state, but ended up declining the invitation because of “differences” on the fight against the pandemic.

According to the Poder 360 site, Mr. Bolsonaro told her that she risked “screwing up” her re-election plan in 2022 if she ordered containment or other unpopular measures in poor regions of the Northeast.

His opponents are not mistaken: “it is useless to change minister if the policy remains the same, if the president continues to put sticks in the wheels, no minister can get by”, launched Flavio Dino, left-wing governor of Maranhao (northeast).