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Profanity-laced video of cabinet meeting puts Bolsonaro under fire

Bolsonaro has insisted he was referring to the head of his security detail, though he had successfully changed that position recently. Moro said the president was alluding to the head of police operations in Rio, who presumably might have been involved in investigations into the president’s sons, who live there.

Bolsonaro’s popularity has been sagging due to his downplaying of the coronavirus pandemic, which has now killed more than 21,000 Brazilians and the death toll is accelerating.

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The pandemic, not the revelation of the video, will be the main driver of the President’s future, said Christopher Garman, managing director for the Americas at the political risk consultancy Eurasia Group. Garman said the video didn’t provide any sound legal evidence of interference and would energise Bolsonaro’s base in the near term.

“He’s not going to win hearts and minds of those who don’t support him or convince those who abandoned him already to come back. It just plays to his base, polarises the environment more,” Garman said. “And that will fade. I don’t think it will be any kind of game changer on the positive side.”

Carlos Melo, a political science professor at Insper University in Sao Paulo, said Brazilians could be put off by scenes from a meeting in which the subject of fighting the virus is barely broached. Bolsonaro did ask ministers to defend him against criticism over his handling of the virus.

Demonstrators hold a Brazilian flag marked with black crosses during a protest demanding President Jair Bolsonaro be impeached, in front of the National Congress in Brasilia.

Demonstrators hold a Brazilian flag marked with black crosses during a protest demanding President Jair Bolsonaro be impeached, in front of the National Congress in Brasilia.Credit:AP

“It calls one’s attention that, in that moment, no one was talking about COVID-19 in the cabinet, except for a brief mention. When then health minister starts speaking about what is being done, the President stops him and moves on,” Melo said. “That is very bad, and it will be used by the media and the opposition. It shows very little effort to fight it.”

At another point in the video, a furious Bolsonaro also complains about his inability to get information from the police or other agencies.

“I have the power and I will interfere in all ministries, no exception,” he said.

“I cannot be surprised by news. I have the federal police that do not give me information. I have the armed forces intelligence that does not give me information. The intelligence agency, I have some information. I don’t have more because we have some problems,” Bolsonaro added. “We cannot live without information.”

Crowds gather in front of the Planalto presidential palace to show their support for Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro most days. The sign reads "We are all Bolsonaro" in Portuguese.

Crowds gather in front of the Planalto presidential palace to show their support for Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro most days. The sign reads “We are all Bolsonaro” in Portuguese.Credit:AP

The President frequently appears enraged in the video. He insults governors who are enforcing stay-at-home measures, threatens to fire ministers praised by the mainstream media and defends the view that all his countrymen should possess firearms to avoid being governed by tyrants.

Bolsonaro also said he would not accept being removed from office because of his disregard for health recommendations on the best ways to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

“If I have to go down one day, may we fall fighting for a good reason. Not for a stupid anti-virus exam, for the love of God,” he said.

Bolsonaro tested negative for a coronavirus infection three times in March after taking a flight with two dozen passengers who tested positive.

If I have to go down one day, may we fall fighting for a good reason. Not for a stupid anti-virus exam, for the love of God.

Jair Bolsonaro, Brazilian President

Maranhao state Governor Flavio Dino, a nemesis of Bolsonaro’s, said the video “confirms the testimony of Sergio Moro, includes several crimes, reveals plans to arm the population for political ends and shows unmistakable despotic impulses.”

The video provided a rare glimpse into the inner workings of an administration that doesn’t open its doors to the mainstream press. It revealed not just Bolsonaro, but also cabinet ministers, making statements strongly criticising elements of Brazilian society.

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Education Minister Abraham Weintraub, for one, said Supreme Court justices should all be jailed. Celso de Mello, the Supreme Court justice, said in his decision to release the video that Weintraub committed “an apparent crime against the honour of members” of Brazil’s top court.

During the meeting, Bolsonaro also complained that he has struggled to govern, saying he doesn’t know “where our boat is heading”.

AP

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Source: Sydney Morning Herald

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