President under probe: On Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro

Bolsonaro faces a political setback as Brazil struggles with economic and health crises

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro’s decision to sack the country’s federal police chief has come back to haunt him. First, Sèrgio Moro, one-time Bolsonaro ally and Justice Minister, announced his resignation in a press conference, accusing the leader of trying to interfere in the federal police. Then the Attorney-General moved the Supreme Court seeking authorisation for a probe into Mr. Moro’s allegations. On Tuesday, the top court approved a 60-day probe into the President’s actions. The police were reportedly investigating two of the President’s sons, both public officials, over alleged fake news dissemination, corruption and mafia group ties. While the President and his sons have dismissed the allegations, the move to quickly replace the police chief with a “friend” of one of the President’s sons, has strengthened Mr. Moro’s claim that the President wants someone in the police “from whom he can collect intelligence”. The probe comes at a time when the President’s handling of Latin America’s largest coronavirus outbreak is already under fire. Mr. Bolsonaro, who wants the economy to be reopened sooner, sacked his Health Minister Luiz Henrique Mandetta earlier this month over disagreements.

Mr. Bolsonaro is not new to controversies. From his incessant attacks on political rivals, activists, environmentalists and sexual minorities to the controversial handling of the Amazon fires, he has triggered sharp criticism. But this time, he is perhaps facing his biggest crisis as President. Mr. Moro and Dr. Mandetta were relatively popular figures in his Cabinet. The alliance with Mr. Moro, a former judge, had been particularly strong. Last year, a media report showed that Mr. Moro had colluded with the prosecutors who led a corruption investigation against former President Lula da Silva. Lula was convicted in 2018 when he was leading in the presidential election. His exit enabled an easy win for Mr. Bolsonaro. With Mr. Moro’s resignation, Mr. Bolsonaro has lost a powerful ally, and is now surrounded by his unpopular far-right Cabinet colleagues and family. Hundreds are dying from COVID-19 and the government appears to be clueless about its containment. Brazil’s economy is expected to contract 5.3% this year, a sharp fall from the government’s rosy projections made earlier. Mr. Bolsonaro’s approval ratings are also steadily falling. Left-wing Senators have already launched a campaign to impeach him. According to a recent poll, while 45% Brazilians support his impeachment, 46% want him to resign. All these point to an isolated, unpopular President who is losing allies and followers and facing a police probe at a time when the country is going through grave political, economic and health crises.

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Printable version | Jun 1, 2020 2:43:49 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/editorial/president-under-probe-the-hindu-editorial-on-brazils-jair-bolsonaro/article31466623.ece

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