Brazil
Feature

Bolsonaro becoming isolated by political coronavirus crisis

Bnamericas Published: Wednesday, March 25, 2020
Bolsonaro becoming isolated by political coronavirus crisis

While Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro (pictured) continues downplaying the public health risk of the coronavirus pandmemic, the federal government is taking steps to mitigate the impacts on the country's economy. 

After criticizing congress in recent days, Bolsonaro went on the attack again in a televised speech on Tuesday evening, lashing out at state governors for the measures they have taken to restrict the circulation of the public and ordering closures of malls and stores.

After these attacks, the political crisis has escalated in Brazil, with Bolsonaro becoming even more isolated. 

“Our lives have to go on. Jobs must be maintained. The livelihoods of families must be preserved. Yes, we have to return to normality," said Bolsonaro in his speech, going on to claim that COVID-19 only represents a risk for people over 60 years old. 

Bolsonaro's speech was criticized by state governors, led by João Doria, governor of São Paulo, the country's most populous state and economic powerhouse.

"In São Paulo state alone we have more than 6mn people above 60 years old and all restrictions on circulation that we're adopting follow international health protocols and our main objective is to save lives," said Doria. 

The Brazilian president was also criticized by other domestic political leaders.

"This situation requires that the federal government recognize the efforts of all – governors, mayors and health professionals – and adopt objective measures for emergency support to contain the virus and [support] for businesses and employees harmed by social isolation," said Rodrigo Maia, head of the lower house of congress. 

This week congress plans to vote on a new federal budget, which will outline money to be used in health efforts to reduce the expected spread of coronavirus across the nation.

MEASURES ADOPTED SO FAR 

Despite Bolsonaro's controversial narrative, the federal administration has taken various steps in recent days to mitigate the spread of coronavirus, both on the health and economic side. 

The main economic measures brought in so far include:

Support for states 

The federal government authorized a six-month delay on payments from state governments for debts to the federal treasury. A total of 12.6bn reais (US$2.53bn) in payments will be postponed. 

In additional, the government will provide a fund for 88.2bn reais to be tapped by state and municipal governments to be used in measures in the health sector.

Help for companies 

State-run development bank BNDES created a special credit line to finance the working capital of small and medium-sized companies, which will have a total of five years and a grace period of 24 months to repay the debts. 

BNDES has also suspended loan repayments for up to six months for firms in the oil and gas, electric power, airport, port, transport, urban mobility, health, industrial, retail and service sectors. 

Support for workers 

The government will provide a one-time payment of 200 reais to low-income workers. 

Meanwhile, a total of 20bn reais will be deposited into employee compensation guarantee funds, or FGTS, which can be withdrawn by workers.


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