'Jair Bolsonaro most incompetent political leader in a democracy'

01 June 2020 Consultancy.lat 5 min. read

Jair Bolsonaro’s decision to put the country’s economic growth ahead of people’s lives makes Brazil's President the most incompetent political leader in any democracy, according to the CEO of a consultancy.

Similarly to the 2016 elections in the US, Brazil’s 2018 Presidential race saw a divisive campaign bring the hard-right Jair Bolsonaro and his PSL party to power, with the ex-military-man promising to purge Brazil of ‘socialism’, and cut deep into public services, social security, and the fabric of Brazilian society itself.

Since he came to office, there has been no sign to suggest that the President is interested in uniting the country, or change tack to make allies on the global stage – even amid the current international Covid-19 crisis.

If anything, the pandemic has seen Bolsonaro double down on his abrasive brand of populism, routinely insisting that the potentially lethal virus is nothing but a “little flu”, even as Brazil maintains the grim title of having the most Covid-19 cases globally, after the US. As of yesterday, Brazil reached over 29,000 deaths from Covid-19,  with around 500,000 infections reported – and as is the case in other countries, health experts have suggested the situation could be worse, but being masked by a lack of testing in Brazil.Jair Bolsonaro, BrazilA recent study by the University of Sao Paolo Medical School estimated that the number of Covid-19 infections could be around 15 times higher than the official figure – something that if true would mean the actual total of coronavirus cases in Brazil stood at over 7 million. This would be four-times higher than the infection total of the US, and would likely be accompanied by a proportionally inflated body-count.

According to rolling seven-day averages for new Covid-19 deaths per million published by Our World in Data in late May, Sweden tops the pile at a rate of 4.7, with Brazil close behind on 4.49, and the UK next worst, averaging 4.46.

President Jair Bolsonaro

Throughout the pandemic’s spread in Brazil, the President’s approach to the virus has largely been to try to maintain business as usual, despite the growing number of cases in his country. “Our life has to go on. Jobs should be maintained,” he argued at one press conference, while stating at another, “the economy has to function because we can't have a wave of unemployment.” As a result, and in a move not dissimilar to President Trump in the US, he has subsequently done his utmost to undermine the efforts of State Governors to curb the infection rate.

Bolsonaro’s actions have led to geo-political expert Ian Bremmer to label him the “most incompetent political leader in a democracy” of the crisis so far. Bremmer, who is founder and CEO of the Eurasia Group, a leading global political-risk consultancy, has repeatedly taken to Twitter to condemn the apparent complacency of Brazil’s President during the pandemic, and said that despite “much competition” for the unwanted accolade, the most ineffective world leader in addressing the coronavirus is Bolsonaro.

Eurasia Group was founded by Bremmer in 1998, and has offices in New York, Washington, D.C., London, Tokyo, São Paulo, San Francisco and Singapore. The consultancy conducts research into business and politics, and helps governments and private sector clients with making informed business decisions.

Further criticism

The statements were posted on Bremmer’s Twitter account, where the analyst had said earlier during the emerging pandemic that Bolsonaro posting a photo of him “in a crowd in Brasilia...taken down by twitter” was “going to get Brazilians killed,” and exhibited a “level of irresponsibility I’ve never seen from a democratically elected leader.” Bremmer later added Bolsonaro’s attacks on “governors who have taken lockdown measures” would “severely damage his mandate.”

Bremmer has also taken an outspoken stance in pointing out the short-comings of a host of other democratic leaders, including Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador who is “also up there” with Bolsonaro, as he “is in complete denial over the coronavirus. Still talking about austerity, no government action.

The Eurasia Group chief executive also pointed out that the US has “more than 100K confirmed virus deaths,” and despite only making up 4% of the world’s population, that was “28% of global deaths.”

Elsewhere, Bolsonaro has also come under fire from the Director of the Igarape Institute, a Rio based think tank, who suggested to CBNC that his “incompetence” might have more sinister motives. Robert Muggah told the news company that it was “tempting to say that he is making outrageous statements to deflect attention from his criminal behaviour.” Muggah continued that “crises such as this one demand focused, competent leadership. Bolsonaro is incapable of this, and the longer he remains in power, the more Brazilians will die.”

Muggah went on to suggest that Bolsonaro faces at least three major challenges to his power base before he next faces election in 2022. He may face impeachment proceedings, including an allegation that he poses a threat to public health, conviction by the Supreme Court for common crimes, or ejection by the national electoral tribunal for alleged misconduct during the 2018 campaign – all of which controversy around coronavirus might provide a welcome distraction from.