Brazil’s Power Vacuum: “Nobody wants to conduct a Ghost Train”

The military won’t officially take over because nobody wants to be publically associated with the worst government in Brazilian history

By Leonardo Attuch

Bolsonaro’s pen has less and less ink in it. Every day that goes by shows that he is losing power. This was shown during his April 9 live address to the Brazilian people. He said, “If you are unhappy with quarantine, you can’t complain about it to me, you have to complain to the governors.”

The Supreme Court ruling is clear – he no longer has the power to revoke any quarantine order. So Bolsonaro is no longer running things. Every day that goes by he is weaker. But he still has some power. He has, for example, the power to do these publicity stunts – to go out to the bakery – he has the power to promote protests, he has the power to hold an official press conference or make an address to the Brazilian people. But he doesn’t have decision making power.

I am sure that he was planning to fire his Health Minister Luiz Mandetta. He had made his mind up. And, evidently, this military managed to prevent it from happening. But nobody is hegemonic in this government. The government is in chaos and nobody is in charge. There is a power vacuum. Bolsonaro has some power. He is threatening to do things. The Military have some power, Congress has some power and society is perplexed just watching this all unfold.

What I really see in Brazil right now is a ship with no captain. The governors are taking things into their own hands. The most appropriate image that comes to mind for Brazil is that of the ghost train – something scary happens every 5 minutes but I don’t think we have a military government installed in Brazil yet. If we were going to have a military government they could simply remove Bolsonaro and put Vice President Mourão in power. They could force Bolsonaro to resign because the second that Bolsonaro loses all support from the military he’ll be out. Therefore, he still has a support base there. When we look at the most recent tweet by General Vilas Boas, he is also saying that, like Bolsonaro, he is against isolation. He says we have to look for balance and that we can’t have total isolation.

I think that the military would like to take charge of government with more economic growth. The Bolsonaro government is going to be a catastrophe. If he manages to stay in power for the full term it will go down in Brazilian history as a 4 year period in which Brazilians became 30, 40 or 50% poorer. A lot of people still don’t have an idea of the scope of this. It will be a government remembered for death and economic destruction. It will go down in the history books as the most tragic period in Brazilian history and the military is associated with this failure. They can’t just say that it was coronavirus – they created this mess. Imagine if Brazil were in the hands of Lula today. If the military had not interfered in politics, if the Military had not given all of its support to the Lava Jato investigation. If it hadn’t pressured the Supreme Court tolegitimize a false election in Brazil, Lula would be President today. Imagine what it would be like if Lula was in charge of the pandemic response. The fact of the matter, though, is that he got lucky to not be tied up in this mess. It’s the Brazilian people who are screwed.