The noise that accompanies the Bolsonaro government in Brazil is often so deafening that it is easy for the two women to go unnoticed even though both have survived frequent and stormy ministerial handovers. The only two ministers that Jair Bolsonaro appointed three years ago are still there, firm in their positions, focused on the mission entrusted to each one. The Minister of Women, Family and Human Rights, the evangelical Damares Alves, and the Minister of Agriculture, Tereza Cristina Dias, are two key pillars of the Government because they represent the interests of two important groups in Brazil today and crucial for Bolsonaro in his attempt to be re-elected.
Alves, 57, was a pastor of the Church of the Foursquare Gospel and took office with controversy, saying that girls should wear pink and boys in blue. A lawyer by training, she has adapted ministerial management to the most ultra-conservative patterns. One of the biggest controversies of his tenure was the difficulties in accessing an abortion for a 10-year-old girl raped by her uncle.
Dias is a 67-year-old agricultural engineer with a reputation for technique and many miles of politics and management behind her. Until her entry into the cabinet of the far-right president, she was the head of the parliamentary group that defends the interests of the very thriving agricultural sector. She has been one of those in charge of working behind the scenes so that the synophobic and anti-communist outbursts of the Bolsonaro clan did not ruin the vital relationship with China, Brazil’s main trading partner. Soybeans and the agricultural sector in general have contributed to slowing the decline of the Brazilian economy, it was the only sector that closed 2020 with growth. A few days ago, he received the good news that China was lifting the veto on beef for health reasons, which has lasted three months.
Like an ant, it has been closing agreements here and there to open new markets for new products and expand exports. In the worst of the pandemic, he made sure to keep the domestic market stocked with supplies and not to remove his mask in public despite his boss’s speech.
And although his defense of agricultural and livestock interests is above any other consideration, Dias is aware of the political weight of the environment in the commercial relationship with the European Union. In his speeches, he often emphasizes the importance of sustainability and that the sector take steps towards a transition to maintain its share of the international market. The European Commission’s plan to veto raw materials from deforested areas from its markets is highly problematic for Brazil, where illegal logging has reached a record high in 15 years.
The far-right and anti-feminist Bolsonaro used the style that characterizes him on his first March 8 at the head of a government full of ties: “For the first time in life, the number of ministers is balanced in our government. We have 22 ministries, 20 men and two women. Just a small detail: each of these women here is equal to ten men. The claw of both transmits energy for the others ”.
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Their governments have all been super-masculine. And super-militarized, so much so that members of military origin have far surpassed women in the Brazilian councils of ministers. Right now there are eight men from the Armed Forces (not counting the president) in front of the two ministers. The Secretary of State in charge of relations with Congress, Flávia Arruda, lacks the prominence that the shepherdess and agricultural engineer have.
The Government reflects with greater intensity the shortage of women in Brazilian politics despite the quotas, which the parties mock, and the precedent of Dilma Rousseff, president between 2011 and 2016. They are around 15% at all levels, from federal parliamentarians to the mayors and councilors.
The evangelicals, a group that in Brazil does not stop winning faithful, considers Minister Alves a good servant of God concerned about the traditional family and the conservative majority. Fighting domestic violence, child abuse, defending sexual abstinence to prevent youthful pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases or disabled people are the main axes of her performance as a minister.
With the management of Alves as a showcase, the promise of appointing “a terribly evangelical judge” fulfilled and the support of the heads of the main Protestant Churches, Bolsonaro intends to retain the vote of a group that usually mobilizes as a bloc. However, the disaster of the government’s management of the pandemic and the filing of corruption investigations – an important issue for the most religious – and the economic crisis have diminished their support among this group. Evangelicals are full of people who have risen to the middle class and are now suffering a sharp setback.
That is why they are a very juicy fishing ground for votes, which is why the rest of the candidates for the Presidency such as Lula da Silva or Sérgio Moro are exquisite in their treatment of the most believers and do not miss the opportunity to wink at them.
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George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.