President Jair Bolsonaro has secured the funding he needed to launch a comprehensive anti-poverty program to replace the successful Bolsa Familia and pave the way to an electoral victory within a year. Baptized as Auxilio Brasil, the government’s plan is a monthly payment of 400 reais for 20 million families. In other words, an amount that doubles what Bolsa Familia paid until last month and that will benefit six million families more than the 14 million that received the previous subsidy. To get the money, the Executive has had to approve a constitutional reform that allows the spending ceiling to be temporarily relaxed.
The process to guarantee financing at a time when Brazil’s public accounts are severely affected by the pandemic has been extremely arduous for the Government. He has had to do legislative filigree to get the funds. With the legislative changes approved in recent days to the annoyance of investors, the Government will have an additional 64,000 million reais (11,600 million dollars) that it intends to allocate to Auxilio Brasil. With those funds, he would have a budget to pay the aid for the entire year 2022, that is, until after the presidential and legislative elections are held in October.
Making the spending ceiling more flexible means breaking with the austerity policy agreed in 2017, but launching the Auxilio Brasil program has been Bolsonaro’s great political priority for many months. The far-right is aware that the pay can help him gain popularity among the poorest, a public that remains loyal to the Workers’ Party (PT) of former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. This is also the reason for his constant trips to the northeast of Brazil, Lula’s homeland and the poorest Brazil, to inaugurate all kinds of works.
Bolsonaro will aspire to reissue the political success of the generous emergency aid program approved in the first months of the pandemic, which managed to skyrocket his popularity among the poor, an effect that has disappeared as inflation and unemployment rose.
Burying or renaming Bolsa Familia – one of the great electoral brands of the PT – was one of Bolsonaro’s obsessions since he came to power. It has cared little for the political and academic consensus that considered it one of the most effective and cheapest anti-poverty programs in the world. Created in 2003, it managed to lift millions of people out of extreme poverty on a small budget.
The retired military man has just joined a party of the old politics in a first step to contest the reelection, but in recent months, as the economic crisis worsens, his popularity has been falling systematically while that of Lula has been rising, so that it has been at the top of the polls for months.
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And the recent entry into the dispute by former judge Sergio Moro is another obstacle on Bolsonaro’s road to being reelected. The great symbol of the investigation Lava Jato recently launched his candidacy. The polls show that the disembarkation of a former judge and former minister of Bolsonaro harms the president and stands as a third way between the extreme right and Lula.
Along with the Auxilio Brasil program, a gesture towards those most in need, Bolsonaro has managed to fulfill his great promise to evangelicals with the appointment of a lawyer and pastor of the Presbyterian Church as the new Supreme Court judge. As he himself has recalled, if he is re-elected, he will be able to appoint two more magistrates among the 11 of the court.
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