March 10th, 2021. Undoubtedly, a historical day for Brazilian politics. Polarization has already been a reality in the country for the past few years, however, in the prevailing context – the pandemic and the political and economical consequences of it -, even the smallest action can have a huge effect. The greatest opponent of president Jair Bolsonaro, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, becoming eligible again, nonetheless, is not a small action. When Lula’s case was reassessed by judges from the Supreme Court, the highest representative of the Judicial Power in Brazil, and it was considered biased, making it possible for him to run for president in 2022 against Bolsonaro, the president had no option besides “changing” his reasoning, since many of his actions towards the pandemic were not pleasing a huge number of Brazilians, who could – and would – vote for his opponent if he did not try to persuade them that he was a good option for them to vote for him in 2022 again. On March 10th, both politicians gave a speech, and it was already possible to notice a “change” in Bolsonaro’s behavior, after Lula attacked him in his statements: coy and calm, it was almost as if he was a different person. But did he really change, or was it all just a character, which could not be sustained for long?
Brazilian political scenario in 2018 was chaotic: Lula was accused of corruption and arrested. Before that, he used to have a lot of supporters, who were taken by Lula´s speeches and by the populist measures he adopted when in the presidency. However, this changed quickly: “Car Wash”, a corruption-scheme investigation, partially gathered a series of “evidence” to sentence him. As a consequence, the ex-president was declared unable to run for political posts for good. Brazilians, feeling like fools after Lula´s prison, started to feel delusional about politics and politicians. Nevertheless, this did not stop them from voting for a person who is not concerned with the truth.
According to Dalila Araujo, behavioral analyst and specialist on the “Disc Behavioral Analytical Model”, Bolsonaro has a dominant personality, and used it very strategically in 2018, almost as a character he had to play. Using his combative and polemical way of dealing with problems, he convinced most Brazilians that he was the best for the country’s future because, after all, he hated Lula as much as they did. Dalila explained why Bolsonaro felt so comfortable in that situation: “People with Jair´s personality like situations where they are pushed up into their limits. They work better when they have a challenge to face an opponent.” At that time, this kind of discourse easily convinced a portion of the population that he was the right person to command the Executive Power. In fact, according to Priscila Lapa, PhD in political science by FACHO (Faculdade de Ciências Humanas de Olinda), some Brazilians “signed a blank check”, because he did not showed up for the presidential debates, but convinced that it would be better than voting for the other candidate from Lula’s political party, Fernando Haddad. He filled up the population with questionable promises and only gave them Chloroquine and more Chloroquine.
Since the first cases of COVID-19 were detected in the country, Jair chose to perform a negationist posture towards the pandemic: he said it was a small flu, that he would not be hospitalized because he used to be an “athlete”, refusing to buy vaccines, besides answering things like “I am not gravedigger” when asked about the number of dead people in Brazil. Moreover, he continued to meet his supporters in anti-democratic acts and motivate them to take medicines, such as Hydroxychloroquine, which had not been approved by science to prevent people from the virus. Many Brazilians disagreed with his behavior, and, added to the fact that the country occupied for long the first position on the list of deaths by the virus, created a propitious scenario for the emergence of an opposition figure, such as Lula, who showed up for his first speech after becoming eligible wearing a mask and criticizing Bolsonaro for not buying vaccines, in a purposeful contrast.
Finally, it is clear that Bolsonaro´s decisions during the pandemic are inconsistent and now, when there is only one year left for the 2022 elections, it seems that he is scared for a reason: his biggest opponent is eligible again. Lula had the accusations over him taken away, therefore, he is recovering his massive support. Also, although the current president, clearly worried, tried for some days to act in a different – diplomatic and polite – way, by, for instance, reading a previously prepared speech, defending democracy, and using a mask, he could not pretend it for long, and in less than a month, he started to act accordingly to what he truly believes.
On March 25th, fifteen days after Lula and him discoursed and he acted different from usual, Bolsonaro recorded one of his weekly lives, the way he chose to connect to the people since his candidacy for president, back in 2018, and attacked the quarantine method of restraining the pandemic, what he has been doing since the beginning of the cases in Brazil, in March, 2020. Hence, it is possible to notice that the president feels, undoubtedly, threatened by Lula being eligible again but, differing from what his initial speeches after March 10th showed, this does not change his position towards the pandemic. Considering this entire scenario, the biggest question is: both candidates are going to push their opponents to the edge, but whose side will the Brazilians be in 2022?
The article above was edited by Bárbara Vetos.
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