Gwynne Dyer

Bolsonaro: Suicide by COVID

‘Rounding into the home stretch, it’s Italy by a full length, then the United Kingdom, with the United States and Brazil neck and neck….No, wait. Brazil is making its move. It’s coming up on the outside….’

Is it disrespectful to portray the performance of the leading Covid-stricken countries as a horse-race in which the winner will be the major country with the worst death-rate per million citizens? If so, I apologize, but it certainly looks like that.

Italy led at first, was subsequently overtaken by practically everybody else, and then did a last-quarter sprint that put it back out in front again. But Brazil, the dark horse, overtook the United States Sunday (Brazil 1,758 deaths per million, U.S. 1,750 per million), and it may catch up with the U.K. next week. After that only Italy stands in the way of Brazil winning the Covid Booby Prize.

The pandemic is probably going to end the political career of Jair Bolsonaro, Brazil’s egregious president. In fact, his equally unpleasant son Eduardo is already dreaming of a last stand in the Trumpian style. He recently criticized the would-be heroes who stormed the Capitol in Washington on Jan. 6 for being timid and incompetent.

“If they had been organized,” said Eduardo Bolsonaro (who heads the Foreign Affairs Committee in Brazil’s House of Deputies), “they would have taken the Capitol and…killed all the police inside or the congressmen they all hate.” And Eduardo’s father, the president, Jair has gone full Donald, trying to justify a coup in advance by insisting that next year’s election will be rigged against him.

Like Trump, however, Bolsonaro cannot really rely on the support of his nation’s senior military officers to save his bacon if he loses the election. He has just replaced all of Brazil’s military heads of service with generals who he thinks are more loyal, but the genuinely fascist officers who might actually back him in a coup are almost all of much lower rank.

If Bolsonaro has to depend on winning the popular vote next year, however, his chances of a second term are shrinking by the day. The latest opinion poll (mid-April) finds 55 per cent of the voters see his presidency as ‘terrible,’ while only 26 per cent think it is ‘good’ or ‘excellent.’ What has undone Bolsonaro, just like his hero Trump, is Covid-19.

The pandemic is so bad in Brazil now that most hospitals are rationing care, turning away Covid-stricken people whose age or underlying conditions make them less likely to survive and saving scarce beds and oxygen for those with a better chance.

The death-rate has been truly shocking. Most days last week it was in the high three thousands per day, which is about a third of the world total in a country with only 2.5 per cent of the world’s people.

It’s especially horrifying in a middle-income country with a free national health service which, although it is under-funded, normally provides reasonably good care. Only 11 per cent of the population have received at least one dose of a vaccine, and the latest forecast is for half a million deaths by July.

Even Bolsonaro sometimes wears a mask now, although he continues to take legal action against states that impose stronger anti-pandemic measures like stay-at-home orders. He is a prisoner of his own ideology, even when it is clearly hurting his popular support. And to make matters worse for him, ‘Lula’ is out of jail and free to run against him next year.

Brazil was never more prosperous, especially for the less privileged half of the population, than during Luiz Inacio ‘Lula’ da Silva’s two terms as president in 2003-2011. He then withdrew because of the two-consecutive-term limit, but he would have been free to run against Bolsonaro in 2018 – and he would have won – if he had not been in jail by then.

The judge who sent him to jail later became a member of Bolsonaro’s cabinet, but the Supreme Court has now annulled Lula’s corruption convictions and he’s free to run for president in 2022. Nobody knows how many Brazilians will have died needlessly by then, but probably enough to write Bolsonaro’s political epitaph.

Gwynne Dyer’s new book is Growing Pains: The Future of Democracy (and Work).

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

If you're heading out to the West Country have a plan in case things go wrong, says Clearwater Regional Fire Rescue Services fire chief Steve Debienne.
(Photo from CRFRS Facebook)
West Country visitors should have an emergency plan: regional fire chief

Cellphones can’t be relied on in many back country areas

Rode
Sarcevic leads an impressive list of additions to RDC Kings soccer

In 2019 the RDC Kings soccer program took a major step forward… Continue reading

The Red Deer PCN Women's Fun Run will take on a different look this weekend with rising COVID-19 numbers.
Women’s Fun Run goes ahead this weekend in Red Deer

With new public health measures in place because of rising COVID-19 case… Continue reading

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw asked Albertans to limit travel throughout the province as COVID-19 cases continue to rise. (Photo by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
Red Deer nears 900 active COVID-19 cases

Province reports additional 2,211 COVID-19 cases

David Eggen, the NDP’s advanced education critic, said the UCP government has been focused on cutting funding to post-secondary institutions across Alberta. (Contributed photo)
NDP worry new status for Red Deer College doesn’t mean more funding

This week the province announced that RDC will become a polytechnic institute

Alberta Health Services locked the Whistle Stop Cafe in Mirror on Wednesday morning after owner Christopher Scott refused to comply with health orders. (Photo by Paul Cowley/Advocate staff)
UPDATED: AHS shuts down Whistle Stop Cafe for defying health orders

Justice minister promises to get tough with those ignoring public health orders

Wizards beat Raptors in OT, Toronto playoff bid nearly over

Wizards beat Raptors in OT, Toronto playoff bid nearly over

Toronto Blue Jays' Teoscar Hernandez (37) hits a single to drive in two runs against the Oakland Athletics during the sixth inning of a baseball game in Oakland, Calif., on Thursday, May 6, 2021. (AP Photo/Tony Avelar)
Grichuk drives in 5, Jays beat A’s 10-4 for series split

Grichuk drives in 5, Jays beat A’s 10-4 for series split

Canada's Sports Hall of Fame 2019 inductee Jayna Hefford speaks in Toronto on Wednesday, October 23, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
Three Canadian teams to play in women’s hockey Dream Gap Tour in Calgary

Three Canadian teams to play in women’s hockey Dream Gap Tour in Calgary

Rugby Canada says some members of women’s sevens team have tested positive for COVID

Rugby Canada says some members of women’s sevens team have tested positive for COVID

Team Canada skip Kerri Einarson, centre, makes a shot as lead Briane Meilleur, left, and second Shannon Birchard sweep against Denmark at the Women's World Curling Championship in Calgary, Alta., Thursday, May 6, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Einarson’s five-game win streak ends with loss to Japan at world curling playdowns

Einarson’s five-game win streak ends with loss to Japan at world curling playdowns

FILE - In this Feb. 24, 2020, photo, the Olympics rings are reflected on the window of a hotel restaurant as a server with a mask sets up a table, in the Odaiba section of Tokyo. The vaccine rollout in Japan has been very slow with less than 1% vaccinated. This of course is spilling over to concerns about the postponed Tokyo Olympics that open in just over three months.(AP Photo/Jae C. Hong, File)
Canadian athletes, coaches applaud news of vaccine doses ahead of Tokyo

Canadian athletes, coaches applaud news of vaccine doses ahead of Tokyo

Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion Carla Qualtrough holds a press conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Thursday, Sept. 24, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Liberals pressed to ease access to EI parental leave to help unemployed moms

Liberals pressed to ease access to EI parental leave to help unemployed moms

Katie Telford, Chief of Staff to the Prime Minister, appears as a witness via videoconference during a House of Commons finance committee in Ottawa, Thursday, July 30, 2020. The Canadian Press has learned that Katie Telford has written members of the defence committee inquiry into allegations of sexual misconduct against Canada's former top military commander, offering to testify at their meeting Friday. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
PM’s chief of staff offers to testify on Vance sexual misconduct allegations

PM’s chief of staff offers to testify on Vance sexual misconduct allegations

Most Read