Brazilians Demand Bolsonaro’s Impeachment Over COVID-19 Response

On 24 July, Brazilians took to the streets to protest against President Jair Bolsonaro and demand his impeachment. The far-right president has received criticism for the way that the COVID-19 pandemic was handled. But Bolsonaro’s response to the pandemic follows a host of other problems regarding his leadership. Data published by Johns Hopkins University shows that over 548,000 people have died from COVID-19 in Brazil — a number that could be significantly lower if the pandemic were managed with better public health and safety measures. According to Al Jazeera, protesters are also angry about the slow distribution of vaccines. Health is a human right and a fundamental necessity without our health, we cannot be active participants in our communities. Of course, when people are deprived of the things that are essential to their health, there will be unrest. 

When asked why he was participating, one protester said he was there “because it is time to react to the genocidal government that we have, that has taken over our country.” Many protesters hold similar sentiments. As reported by France24, even former supporters of Bolsonaro are demanding vaccines. Even their political support has subsequently swayed. Brazil also has a strong track record of distributing vaccines quickly and widely, which only frustrates Brazilians even more. 

Elected in 2018, Jair Bolsonaro has a history of far-right policies that threaten peace and stability in Brazil. He ran on a populist platform, advocating for and committing to policies that are hard on crime (i.e., militarization of the police, loosening gun laws, etc.). These policies, along with his anti-LGBTQ and racist sentiments, only make spaces more violent. While murder and homicide are illegal, Bolsonaro has made it legal for police officers to kill innocent people, engage in drills that harm the “favelas” (largely poor and black neighborhoods). This is just one example of many other maladies and only provides a sliver of insight into his presidency. However, the fact that his policies with COVID-19 have wreaked havoc in Brazil is not unsuspected. They simply follow all of his other policies that have been detrimental to peace and stability in Brazil. 

Some may say that the protests are threatening to peace and stability in Brazil, but this is untrue. What is actually threatening to peace and stability is President Bolsonaro’s weak leadership- both where it concerns the pandemic and in other areas (such as police violence, as mentioned previously). It is necessary to hold leaders accountable. Where leadership fails, it should be expected that civilians will defend themselves and their rights. Demanding access to vaccines in a country that can readily provide them, as well as adequate public safety and that health measures be taken, is also insisting on peace, security, and stability in Brazil. Doing what is necessary to ensure a population’s health is making peace and security for civilians that much more possible. 

In conclusion, the biggest danger in Brazil right now is President Bolsonaro. Brazilians should not have to take to the streets when matters reach such a boiling point. These protestors want to hold Bolsonaro accountable for the damage that has been done. It is imperative that the response to COVID-19 in Brazil is improved. If Bolsonaro will not this, then the international community should step in and pressure him to. The health of an entire population should not be put on the line. When this happens, it is is a clear sign of a weak state and poor leadership.