President Jair Bolsonaro has never been more popular in Brazil, despite his country's woeful handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. Bolsonaro, who tested positive for the virus on July 7, has dismissed it as a “little flu”. Brazil passed five million Covid-19 cases on Tuesday and recorded its 150.000th death on Saturday.
But 40% of Brazilians surveyed across 127 municipalities in September regarded Bolsonaro as good/excellent, according to a study from the Brazilian Institute of Public Opinion and Statistics, IBOPE. In comparison, he polled at 29% in December 2019, when Brazil did not have a single case of COVID-19.
His success, IBOPR argues can be largely attributed to a scheme launched in April which saw a monthly emergency aid payment of between US$108 and US$217 given to sixty-seven million Brazilians.
The payments are part of a US$ 58 billion cash injection into the Brazilian economy. His success is remarkable given that Bolsonaro has with regularity been criticized in the domestic and international media for making wild claims about the virus and trying to cover up the true extent of his country's outbreak.
On March 26, Bolsonaro suggested that Brazilians were by nature immune to some diseases, and therefore the coronavirus was not a concern. The same week, Facebook and Twitter removed videos of Bolsonaro endorsing the anti malarial drug hydroxychloroquine as a COVID-19 treatment.
In April, when asked his reaction to news that a new record for daily deaths had been set, Bolsonaro said: So what? In June, the Health Ministry deleted months of data from its official Covid 19 tracker, and Bolsonaro was accused of censorship.
The following month, a group of Brazilian journalists sued Bolsonaro after removing his mask in their company while still infectious with the coronavirus.
While Brazil is the third-worst affected country by the pandemic, its outbreak appears to be relenting.
The popular emergency payments were halved last month and are due to be phased out in December. But Bolsonaro has promised to create a new scheme, Citizen's Income, in 2021, including elements of the emergency aid.