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Will Bolsonaro Survive the Pandemic?

With Brazil gripped by an escalating health and economic crisis, calls for President Jair Bolsonaro's impeachment are growing louder. Even if he survives the political storm, his reform agenda will not.

WASHINGTON, DC – After months of downplaying the severity of COVID-19, Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro has contracted it. His symptoms have so far been mild enough that he continues to conduct interviews and make public appearances, not least to project an image of strength. But, with the outbreak spinning out of control and the economy in free-fall, that image is crumbling fast, and calls for impeachment are growing louder. At stake is not only Bolsonaro’s presidency, but also the lives and livelihoods of millions of Brazilians, both now and in the future.

As of July 13, Brazil has reported more than 1.8 million cases of COVID-19 and 72,000 deaths. While the United States still holds the record for daily infections, setting a new one nearly every day, many believe that Brazil is significantly underreporting its numbers. What is known is that the daily death toll continues to rise, and the mortality rate among the young is significantly higher than it is among Brazil’s developed-country peers. Experts estimate that the pandemic may infect 34 million Brazilians.

“Death is everyone’s destiny,” Bolsonaro recently quipped. But that doesn’t mean it can’t be delayed. In the last few decades alone, Brazil successfully confronted malaria, Zika, HIV, and swine flu (H1N1), thanks to effective cooperation between its government and health-care system and the World Health Organization.

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