Bolsonaro’s admission of weakness sparks discussions of his impeachment

Bolsonaro Impeachment
President Bolsonaro at his inauguration ceremony in January. Photo: Geraldo Magela/Agência Senado. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Last week, the publication of a Folha de São Paulo op-ed predicting the possibility of President Jair Bolsonaro’s impeachment coincided with his own admission that Brazil is proving “impossible” to govern.

According to Folha columnist Reinaldo Azevedo, all that remains for Bolsonaro to be charged with impeachment is for the political atmosphere to degenerate enough for him to lose at least a third of support in Brazil’s House of Representatives.

Since his inauguration in January, Bolsonaro’s popularity rating has fallen by 15%, according to a survey carried out by the Brazilian Institute of Public Opinion and Statistics (IBOPE) in March. It is currently at 34%, the lowest it has been since he became president.

The same day Folha published the op-ed, the Brazilian daily also released a report detailing a message the president had circulated via Whatsapp earlier in the month, in which he confessed to the difficulty he is currently experiencing in his position as leader of Brazil.

“Bolsonaro proved that Brazil…is ungovernable,” the president wrote, in third person.

“This is going to be the last time I lay bare in front of the Brazilian people,” read the message. “The system is killing me.”

Read more: Bolsonaro’s Weaponized Social Media

Despite sharing the text in the name of an unknown author, Bolsonaro has since issued comment on the text through his spokesperson, Octavio Barros.

“I have been putting all my strength into governing Brazil,” Bolsonaro’s spokesperson, Barros, told Folha, on the president’s behalf. “The challenges are innumerous and the change in style of governance has not pleased those groups which, in the past, used to benefit from non-republican relations.”

“I want to count on a society in which, together, we can revert this situation and put this country back on the path to a promising future.”

So far this year, stand-out moments for Bolsonaro’s government include a string of scandalous social media posts, tension and infighting within his own political cabinet, a steady onslaught of hostility against Brazilian mainstream media, investigations into the criminality of his own son, a set of unpopular proposed reforms and cuts and a soaring unemployment level of 13%.

If impeached, Bolsonaro would follow in the footsteps of former Workers’ Party President Dilma Rousseff, who suffered the same fate just three years ago. Besides Rousseff, the only other Brazilian president to have been impeached was liberal-conservative Fernando Collor in 1992.

Sophie Foggin
Having worked in newsrooms in both Bogotá and Rio de Janeiro, Sophie is a British journalist now based in Medellín and writing for Latin America Reports. She is interested in post-conflict Colombia, historical memory and transitional justice in Latin America. Her work has also been published by Al Jazeera English, World Politics Review, El Tiempo and O Globo.