Meltdown: Bolsonaro breaks public disapproval record

As approval rating falls to 38.9%, Bolsonaro sets record for least popular presidential start of the 21st Century. The poll, by CNT/MDA, began measuring presidential popularity at the two-month mark in 1998.

by Brian Mier

Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva took office in January, 2003, in the midst of a currency collapse and one of Brazil’s worst economic crises in history. Two months in, the CNT/MDA poll measured his approval rating at 56%. Two months into her second mandate, as the PSDB and hostile media oligarchies did everything they could to sabotage her government, Dilma Rousseff was evaluated as good or excellent by 49% of the electorate. After two months of public gaffe’s, ham-fisted policy moves and corruption scandals reaching the highest level of his disintegrating coalition, Bolsonaro has broken the rejection record in the CNT/MDA poll, which began evaluating public opinion of new presidential mandates in 1998. His approval rating of 38.9% represents the lowest level ever measured for incoming presidents in the poll’s history. Why has this happened? The following is a partial list of events that have had an effect on the right-wing extremists popularity levels:

1) Shortly after Jair Bolsonaro won the election last year, his son Flavio was accused of using ghost employees to kick salaries back to him through multiple, small bank deposits. Furthermore, it was revealed that both the mother and the wife of the leader of the Escritorio de Crime militia, under investigation for the assassination of city councilwoman Marielle Franco,  worked for years in his state congressional cabinet.

2) Justice Minister Sergio Moro, who promised the Brazilian public that he would never get into politics while he was removing Lula from the 2018 presidential elections to guarantee electoral victory for his new boss, has just introduced an anti-crime bill which will allow police officers to legally kill people if they feel “afraid”. This proposal immediately triggered a complaint to the Organization of American States by a group of 37 Afro-Brazilian rights organizations and social movements, who are worried that Brazilian police, who executed over 5000, primarily black youth in 2017, will now feel like they have a license to kill. Moro has also moved to protect crooked politicians who receive illegal campaign donations. After declaring that illegal campaign contributions were “worse than corruption” while persecuting the PT party, he now says that he accepts Bolsonaro’s chief of staff Onyx Lorenzoni’s apology for receiving illegal campaign funds from JBS meat packing company, and has removed illegal campaign contributions as a punishable offense from his new anti-crime bill, protecting his employer and his family.

3) Two of Bolsonaro’s cabinet ministers have been discovered lying about their academic credentials. Environmental Minister Ricardo Salles, who was recently convicted of committing fraud while serving as São Paulo State Environmental Minister, was outed by the Intercept for lying about having a Masters Degree from Yale. Damara Alves, head of Bolsonaro’s new Woman, Family, and Human Rights Ministry, who claims to have personally met Jesus in a guava tree, presented herself to the public as being a lawyer with a masters degree in education. When Folha de São Paulo newspaper found no record of her holding either degree, she responded by saying that her degrees are biblical. “Unlike secular degrees,” she said, “which require one to study at a university, the Christian churches give the title of ‘master’ to anyone who dedicates himself to biblical study.”

4). The international finance community can barely stifle its enthusiasm for Bolsonaro’s academically mediocre Economic Minister Paulo Guedes, who has ties to the Pinochet dictatorship, believes the 1988 Brazilian constitution was a mistake and has promised to “privatize everything”.  Americas Quarterly, which feeds corporate PR narratives into Anglo mainstream media outlets, recently called him “Brilliant and disciplined”. In December, 2018, the Brazilian Federal Police opened an investigation into Guedes for the disappearance of  millions of dollars from private pension funds under his management.

5) A corruption scandal is destroying Bolsonaro’s political party and governing coalition. According to investigators, Bolsonaro’s close friend and campaign coordinator Gustavo Bebianno, leader of the PSL party, nominated dozens of fake candidates in 2018 regional elections. These candidates did not campaign and received votes averaging in the low hundreds, but had millions of Reais from the governmental electoral fund transferred into their bank accounts and re-transfered into the bank accounts of top PSL officials during the final weeks before the election. The scandal prompted Bebianno’s ouster as Minister of the General Secretariat, and looks like it will cause the resignation of Bolsonaro’s national Tourism Minister. The exodus of elected officials out of Bolsonaro’s party into other far-right parties, like Democratas, has already begun.

In addition to the scandals, Bolsonaro and his cronies are making constant public gaffes. After he was unable to build consensus for supporting Trump’s Venezuelan coup attempt on February 23, 2019, his promise of “humanitarian aid” at the Venezuelan border turned out to be two pickup trucks full of powdered milk and rice supplied by an ally in the local government. His Minister of Affairs, recently called the World’s worst diplomat, was publicly corrected by Military generals after announcing that he was going to move the Brazilian embassy to Jerusalem. His Education Minister Velez Rodrigues was forced to reverse a recent illegal order that all public school teachers film their students repeating Bolsonaro’s fascist campaign slogan,“Brazil and God above all”, prompting an congressional inquiry and public apologies.

As a result of these scandals and gaffes, even Brazil’s conservative media oligarchies are now openly attacking the Bolsonaro administration, with both O Globo and Estado de São Paulo encouraging the military to take control of the government in recent editorials, and veteran journalist Mauro Lopes arguing that they already have.

Bolsonaro may be able to limp along until the end of his mandate, but without the illegally funded social media hate campaign that built him up for the elections, his popularity will continue to slip, and with it, his ability to fulfill  campaign threats to eliminate leftists, gays and indigenous reservations should be harder to deliver.



By Brian Mier

Writer, geographer and former development professional who has lived in Brazil for 26 years. Former directorate member of the Fórum Nacional de Reforma Urbana (National Urban Reform Forum). Has lived in São Luis, Recife, Salvador, Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo. Author of “Os Megaeventos Esportivos na Cidade do Rio de Janeiro e o Direito á Cidade” (CEPR: Porto Alegre. 2016). Editor of "Voices of the Brazilian Left" (Sumare: São Paulo. 2018). Editor of "Year of Lead: Washington, Wall Street and the New Imperialism in Brazil" ((Sumare: São Paulo. 2019) Irregular correspondent for the Chicago radio show This is Hell.