Bolsonaro’s diagnosis marks the “beginning of the end” for his administration


A file photo dated March 1, 2020 shows Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro (L) along with his wife Michelle Bolsonaro (R) arriving at the inauguration ceremony for the new President of Uruguay, Luis Lacalle Pou, at the Plaza Independencia in Montevideo, Uruguay.

Carlos Lebrato | Anadolu Agency through Getty Images

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro’s positive diagnosis of the coronavirus marks the “beginning of the end” for his administration, one analyst told CNBC, while others expect the right-wing leader to double his much-criticized response to the pandemic.

Bolsonaro told reporters in a television interview Tuesday that he had tested positive for Covid-19 after experiencing symptoms of the disease over the weekend.

He said he felt “very good” now, saying that the high temperature he had experienced on Sunday had dropped since then.

The president also said he was taking hydroxychloroquine, an antimalarial drug advocated by his ideological ally, President Donald Trump, and azithromycin, an antibiotic, to treat the virus.

Neither drug has been shown to be an effective prophylactic or treatment for Covid-19.

The diagnosis comes after the Brazilian president constantly rejected the virus threat for months. He previously described the disease as nothing more than “a little flu” and claimed that his past as an athlete would make him immune to the worst symptoms.

“Despite publicly ruling out his positive test for Covid-19, it marks the beginning of the end of his administration,” Robert Muggah, director of the Igarape Institute, a group of experts based in Rio de Janeiro, told CNBC.

“It is another visible expression of their recklessness and ineptitude,” Muggah said, before adding that the country did not yet have a coordinated national strategy to deal with the outbreak.

A government spokesman was not immediately available to comment when CNBC contacted him on Wednesday.

To date, Brazil has recorded more than 1.6 million coronavirus cases, with 66,741 related deaths, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. It means that the country is second only to the US for the highest number of confirmed cases.

Bolsonaro has insisted throughout the pandemic that maintaining social distance and avoiding public gatherings are unnecessary when it comes to addressing the spread of the virus. Instead, it has stated that complying with these guidelines will have a negative impact on the country’s economic recovery.

Bolsonaro “publicly ridiculed the preventive measures taken by states and cities, urging Brazilians to prioritize the economy instead of saving lives. He ignored a court order to wear a mask, despised physical distancing and, inevitably, caught the virus” Muggah said.

‘Very unlikely’ to change the government’s pandemic response

Thomaz Favaro, a Sao Paulo-based analyst for consulting firm Control Risks, told CNBC by email that the president’s diagnosis was “highly unlikely” to change the government’s response to the pandemic.

In fact, in announcing the test results at a press conference, President Jair Bolsonaro reiterated most of the arguments that have guided his administration’s response to date: minimized the severity of the disease, opposed the measures of social distancing implemented by mayors and governors, and also recommended the use of chloroquine. ”

“However, the diagnosis partially diverts attention to Bolsonaro from his role as a policymaker, refocusing on his individual drama as another victim of the pandemic,” Favaro continued. “This is a much better position for Bolsonaro, considering the poor results his administration has received so far and the sharp increase in cases and deaths.”

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro observes during the opening ceremony of the Main Space Operations Center (COPE-P) amid the coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19) at the Command of Operações Aeroespaciais on June 23, 2020 in Brasilia .

Andressa Anholete | fake pictures

At 65, Bolsonaro is in a higher risk category because of his age.

Bolsonaro is not the first world leader to become infected with the virus: UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who tested positive in April, suffered such severe symptoms that he was transferred to an intensive care unit for several days.

Most recently, Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández was released from the hospital earlier this month, 16 days after being diagnosed with Covid-19.

What does this mean for the Brazilian economy?

Jimena Blanco, director of Latin America at Verisk Maplecroft, also said Bolsonaro’s positive tests for Covid-19 are unlikely to change the government’s response to the pandemic “in any substantial way.”

Satere-Mawe indigenous leader Valdiney Satere, 43, collects caferana, a plant native to the Amazon rainforest used as a medicinal herb, to treat people showing symptoms of the new coronavirus COVID-19 in their Wakiru community in the Taruma neighborhood, a rural area west of Manaus, Amazonas state, Brazil, on May 17, 2020.

RICARDO OLIVEIRA | AFP via Getty Images

“In the short term, the news should have a limited impact on the economy, which has been hit by the pandemic,” he said, noting that the official expectation of a 4.7% contraction of gross domestic product in 2020 had prepared the scenario for Brazil will record its biggest drop in GDP in 120 years.

“However, if the president’s health deteriorates, questions about a possible succession and intensifying political maneuvers would increase market uncertainty. This would lead to greater short-term volatility in the equity and currency markets,” he said.

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