Might President Jair Bolsonaro’s glass ceiling be cracking and his government slowly crumbling? Does this explain his apparent silence since late June? We don’t know yet. We only know that on top of the brutal economic crisis afflicting much of the population (more than 12 million unemployed according to the IBGE), the 2020 GDP is forecast to shrink by at least 6%. These two factors will only compound the breakdown of the government’s economic policy, through the end of its mandate in 2022.

We know too that the country is going through a political crisis not unlike a fratricidal war¹ between major wings of the local political forces that put Bolsonaro in office. The result has been a “free for all” on the upper floor, with  daily tugs-of-war in the evening news, especially attacking Congress and the Courts, egged on by “digital shock troops” in a so-called Hate Office² and their minions on call against democracy. The outcome is hard to predict, because these commands’ drive towards authoritarianism is more than just an impulse. However the damage is already done, as the people, in their day-to-day lives, pay the piper.

We must bear in mind the strong reaction coming from Congress and the Courts, which may lead to a deeper understanding of what, how and who actually elected the Bolsonaro-Mourão ticket. We are waiting for the outcome of investigations launched by the Federal Supreme Court (STF) against those digital shock troops and also by Federal Public Prosecutors, whose probes are moving closer to Senator Flavio Bolsonaro, the president’s first-born son, following the arrest of his former cabinet aide, Fabrício Queiroz.

Chaos and more chaos

As if the economic and political crises paralyzing the country and pushing it towards a cliff in 2021 and 2022 were not enough, we also know that Brazil – under the Bolsonaro government – is undergoing a severe health crisis, which has already taken the lives of more than 64,000 people. One mark of this crisis is the Brazilian government’s contempt for basic protective procedures against the new coronavirus. With the first cases of contamination, Bolsonaro’s prophesy that it would be just a “little flu” set the tone for how public health would be managed throughout the pandemic. Today, three months after the first Covid-19 confirmed death, we have reached the sad milestone of more than 1.5 million people infected.

This same government (no joke!) has just vetoed the mandatory use of personal protective masks in public agencies and organizations, in commercial and industrial premises, religious temples, educational institutions and even in closed spaces where people congregate. This sort of official stance simply pushes people even closer to the virus and death.

Meanwhile, the economic groups that sustained this government’s election, and continue to prop it up, are rejoicing in the crisis as data from the IBGE (Gini Index³) indicates that the concentration of wealth has increased during the pandemic. Even as they get richer, Brazil’s economic elites, once known for their fondness of practices that sustained (and still sustain) slavery in the country’s labor history, are now flaunting an even more appalling posture during the pandemic, as they succeed in ending social isolation in order to revive the economy.

Yet people do resist and stand against this spectacle of horrors. Internationally, on June 28th, a worldwide “Stop Bolsonaro” event took place, with face-to-face and virtual demonstrations in at least 50 cities in 23 countries. Participants denounced what they called “the Bolsonaro government’s disregard for the new coronavirus pandemic,” while also condemning fascist groups that are threatening democracy in our country.

Inside Brazil, civil society organizations, social movements, political parties, communications professionals committed to democracy and many others have been speaking out against the Brazilian government’s policies. Brazilian civil society is active, filing impeachment petitions and pressuring the Higher Electoral Court (TSE) to annul the 2018 election of Bolsonaro and Mourão. Women have united to overthrow Bolsonaro, along with pro-democracy caucuses and coalitions for democracy that in early July launched a national “Stop Bolsonaro” campaign.

The national campaign scheduled both mass and symbolic events throughout the country (July 10) and a National “Stop Bolsonaro” Forum (July 11), uniting organizations and institutions aware that this government is no longer viable. The campaign believes that solving the health, economic, environmental and social crises depends on ending the government led by Bolsonaro, Mourão and Guedes.

The country is clearly in the throes of a social upheaval in several dimensions, expressing more than dissatisfaction with the government’s “glass ceiling.” It remains to be seen whether this “glass ceiling” will hold up, and for how long!


[1] War or conflict in which the inhabitants of a given country or members of a single people kill each other.

[2] Unit that coordinates actions in the president’s social networks and heavily influences his followers’ opinions.

[3] The Gini coefficient (or index) measures income or wealth inequality within a nation or group.