Brazil leaderless - Will the military step in?

The Brazil of mid-2018 is a frightened, leaderless, shockingly pessimistic country - observations by Bryan Winter

Eye-opening on the ground observations by Bryan Winter in Americas Quarterly. The truck drivers' strike in May, supported by almost 90% of the Brazilian people, was just a symptom of a badly run country. A bigger problem is that there is nobody willing and able to step in. The next presidential election is in October, but most voters have little faith in the candidates. A surprisingly large part of the population, around 40%, think that military rule would do the country well.

Bryan Winter writes;

The Brazil of mid-2018 is a frightened, leaderless, shockingly pessimistic country. It is a country where four years of scandal, violence and economic destruction have obliterated faith in not just President Michel Temer, not just the political class, but in democracy itself. It is a country where there will be elections in October, but most voters profess little faith in any of the candidates. Given that vacuum, many Brazilians – perhaps 40 percent of them, according to a new private poll circulating among worried politicians – believe the military should somehow act to restore order. Amid this week’s strike, the clamor became so loud that both Temer and a senior military official had to publicly deny the possibility of an imminent coup.

This was all unquestionably good news for the presidential candidate most identified with the armed forces, retired Army captain Jair Bolsonaro, who was already running first in polls. Many analysts expect him to rise further after this week’s events. It’s a red alert for anyone else – foreign investors and ordinary Brazilians alike – with the old-fashioned belief that healthy civilian institutions are the key to long-term prosperity, or who still hold out hope that Brazil’s economy and political outlook might finally stabilize this year.

The Petrobras corruption scandal has caused people to lose faith in politicians, which is part of the reason why Bolsorano is in the lead;

Gen. Joaquim Silva e Luna, whom Temer appointed as Brazil’s first non-civilian defense minister in February, told Bloomberg News last week that he welcomed Bolsonaro’s candidacy. “Brazil is looking for someone with values … and they consider that the armed forces have these attributes,” he said.  

As can be expected, Brian Winter's conclusion is a bleak one, and it seems like it will take quite a while before Brazil can stop its descent, and live up to its full potential.

There were signs of the left and some interesting pro-business bedfellows coalescing around Ciro Gomes, a former finance minister and governor. Elsewhere, leaders from the beleaguered center-right Brazilian Social Democracy Party (PSDB) were looking carefully at polls to decide whether to abandon Geraldo Alckmin as their presidential candidate and go with an “outsider” figure like João Doria instead. But overall, there was little sign of any political consensus that could bring the difficult reforms and bold investments that Brazil needs to recapture the promise it showed last decade. Instead, society seems entirely focused on tearing down existing structures, without much thought to what comes next.

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